Creating a National Historic Landmark: The Poston Internment Camp Journey

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata This YA book is set in the Poston Internment camp

Dear Students,

In the Fall of 2011 the National Park Service met to vote on new National Landmarks. One of them is on the border of Arizona, near Yuma.. At one time, this area was the 3rd largest city in Arizona, home to 18,000 Japanese families, interned by Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt in February of 1942.

photograph by George Watson, Los Angeles Times

The Poston Camps I, II and III were nearly erased. Of the three sprawling internment camps that filled the region, most of the signs are gone.

Panorama of the Poston War Relocation Center photo by George Watson, Los Angeles Times

The educational facilities at Poston were designed and built by the interned Japanese Americans using adobe bricks they manufactured themselves. The barracks were built by Del Webb, the same builders who created the Sun City retirement community. The searing heat and short time table created special challenges for the builders and the residents. Behind that fact is a story about children without a home or school who had to build one first in the baking desert heat. Evacuees nicknamed the three camps Roasten, Toasten and Dustin.

Back to Poston photo by Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times

Above-ground evidence of the camps, such as foundations and roads, has been obscured. Units II and III at Poston do not have sufficient integrity to be considered for NHL designation. You can follow the journey of this site to a National Historic Landmark as it unfolds on the blog Poston Camp Updates.

“Friendship Knot”, Shinkichi Tajiri (Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA)

World renowned sculptor Shinkichi Tajiri‘s was interned with his family at the Poston camp. He enlisted as a volunteer from camp and fought bravely for the 442 infantry regiment. His career included sketching concentration camp prisoners following the war, photographing the Berlin Wall and sculpture series that featured knots. He lived in extraordinary times and rose to meet them.

If you drive through the area to look for the camp you can witness it’s evolution as it makes a journey to confirmed National Historic Landmark. So far the community of camp families and friends have achieved the following:

  • 2003-Grant funding from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Colorado River Indian Tribe Education Department and private donations funded a Strategic Visioning Session.
  • 2004- The Colorado River Indian Tribal Council passed a resolution dedicating 40 acres for the historic preservation of the Poston confinement site. (Poston camp I site)
  • 2009- Grant funding from the U.S. National Park Service for collecting and digitizing oral histories, is now being completed.
  • 2010-Grant funding from the U.S. National Park Service for relocation and rehabilitation of a barrack obtained.
  • 2010-Grant funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the barrack relocation project obtained.
  • 2011-Grant funding from the U.S. National Park Service for production of the documentary, “Poston’s Mothers and Babies: A Film on Domestic Life in Camp”

Do you think it is important to save the story of Poston Internment Camp, why or why not?

With liberty and justice for all,
Mrs. Kenney

Van Gogh Alive and Fly Art: Extending the Art Experience

Dear Students,

We went to the Arizona Science Center this weekend so I could visit Van Gogh Alive. It  is tremendous. I hope you can see it before it leaves town on June 18.

He loved yellow, it was the color of happiness for him

Prior to the show, I borrowed Van Gogh books and a documentary from the library. I learned he suffered from mental illness. I knew his brother Theo supported him financially and emotionally with a treasure trove of letters full of praise and encouragement. I remembered his poverty, anxiety, his passion and Starry Night.

I entered the Van Gogh Alive exhibit through a dark antechamber. The room exhibit space is dark and filled with screens with Van Gogh paintings projected onto them. The room wends around corners. The images panned and scanned, zoomed and faded. If you failed to read the introductory text (as I did) before walking into the exhibit you are left on your own to orient yourself.

The frameless art exhibit was created by Australian Grande Exhibitions and reflects the artwork using 40 projectors equipped with SENSORY4 high resolution technology on giant screens, walls, columns, floors and ceilings.
Synchronized to a powerful classical score, more than 3,000 Van Gogh images in enormous scale create a thrilling display that fills every available surface – immersing you entirely in the vibrant colors and vivid details that constitute Van Gogh’s unique style.

When I’m left hanging, I’m one of those flip to the back of the book people. I like to see how it all works out. So I walked immediately to the back of the exhibit to the gift shop and read all the signs and paged the brochure.

painted while inside an asylum following the birth of his nephew, a relatively happy time for Van Gogh

When I returned to the exhibit I ended up standing where I could read the quotes, then I rotated 360 and took in the changing landscape. I could see the show was organized into periods of his life.

The iconic Starry Night

I was stunned to learn he painted Starry Night using his view from the window of an asylum.

Wheatfield with Crows. I learned the most about this painting from the exhibit.

I thought the way the exhibit presented Wheat Field with Crows was very well done.

After Gaugin left

Youtube has a list of the music they played during the exhibition. It was gorgeous. The quotes were inspiring. I wanted to take notes but instead I soaked it in.

Get to know Fly Art in Queen Creek and take a class. Follow them on Facebook and see how they inspire you! Even if you are not nearby this passionate community is inspiring.

Closer to home, if you want to extend your Van Gogh Art experience, I encourage you to visit Fly Art in Queen Creek and take a class. Like them on Facebook and see how they inspire you! Fly Art is another great model for folks wondering what is 21st Century Learning. Here you have entrepreneurship, a deep knowledge of a certain area and unique offerings. I think the kids that get involved with programs like this have their lives in enriched.

You can find Fly Art in Queen Creek (18423 E San tan blvd Suite 2,Open Studio 11-2 Tues thru Sat & evenings by reg). Fly Art cultivates a passionate community of artists. For folks that say “I don’t know what to do with my older child in the summer, take a look at what the kids are making at Fly Art. I love love love their runway models fashion dresses made out of paper. Spectacular.

The model wears…paper! I love the creativity! Winning!


Mrs. Kenney

P.S. Van Goghing with youngsters: we have a membership (we bought it through Groupon) so my exhibition ticket to Van Gogh Alive was $8.00. I did not bring my own kids, there were children inside. I thought my boys would run through the space in 5 minutes and then ask to leave. You know your kids, the film/photo loop is 30 minutes.

Memorial Day: Decorating a grave at the Historic Pioneer & Veterans Cemetery

This morning we drove downtown to visit the Pioneer and Veteran’s Cemetery and leave flowers. Part of the original Memorial Day Order, designating May 30, 1868, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion…”

photo by E Groves

Just off 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street in downtown Phoenix is an old cemetery, mostly hard dirt and markers lined with smooth stones

The 11 acre cemetery is set behind a fence and closed to the public except during visiting hours.

We had three artificial flowers and one small American flag.

We met three volunteers at the cemetery. The veteran’s graves were already decorated by volunteers but there was room for our flowers.

The community had a program at 9AM and the volunteers were just locking up to go home. They were kind enough to stay and show us around, we could see it was a long day for them but this is the sort of thing dedicated people do in the background of every community, making the world a nicer place with their actions.

The gravesites had little columns for inserting a spray of flowers. Max laid flowers at three different sites. It only took a few minutes.

Now we know where to go in Phoenix and what to do. Thank you to the volunteers at the Pioneers Cemetery Association. It was good to spend some time with you today. We’ll be back.

With Respect,
Mrs. Kenney

5 Things to do on Memorial Day

1. Be Traditional — decorate the grave of a soldier

2. Be Contemplative — to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.

3. Be Generous — donate to a Veteran related cause like Warrior Writers, Wounded Warrior Project, Special Operations Warrior Foundation or Vietnam Veteran’s of America Donation Pick up to name a few. Charity Navigator will help you find a charity that uses it’s donations the best.

4. Be Celebratory — to to a parade or a Veteran’s event, google your community to learn more

5. Be Proud — Fly the flag, following flag etiquette

Local Note: The largest Memorial Day observance in Arizona is at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, Cave Creek Arizona. A list of other cemeteries by county can be found here.

Out of State Note: Mystic Seaport, in Connecticut had a traditional Decoration Day ceremony. You can read about it here.

Papago Park: Hole in the Rock Hike

Dear Students,

Every time I drive to the Zoo, my eyes wander over the prominent buttes that form the “Hole in the Rock, to the left of the Zoo.” To me, the non-hiker with two little boys, it looked like an impossibility.

Because I don’t know anything about Arizona yet, we parked at the zoo and walked over where I saw the dedicated parking area…c’est la vie

This weekend we had mild weather, we were in the Zoo parking lot, I said on impulse, let’s walk to the Hole in the Rock. And so we did.

We didn’t know if we would walk to the back of the rock and see technical climbers with crampons and ropes. We hoped there was a manageable way to reach the top.

Mr. Dreamy walked with Brady and I walked with Max.

Max was eager to climb, he left the well marked trail and took off vertically

The path was graded and had steps cut into it at spaced intervals. I corralled Max and we caught up with our family

by now we are three minutes into the hike and three minutes from the summit

We rounded a corner and lo and behold, Hole in the Rock hike is 1/10 of a mile long and an elevation of 200 feet. Dead easy. I saw pregnant woman walking littles in flip flops. This is my kind of hike!

The hole reveals itself in stages, it is bigger than it looks

We entered through a smaller oval in the rock, certainly big enough but it opened to yield a cavern in the rock and a larger hole facing the zoo. People streamed in and out continuously, posing for pictures, enjoying the view, children climbed the rocks in the interior.

This is the reason we aren’t going to the Grand Canyon for a long time

Telling Max when we reached the top “Look at you! You climbed a mountain!” and the reward of his beaming face makes this a million dollar hike. I know he traces mountain ridges with his hands and tells me how he would walk along the top if only I would let him. Today, he got his wish.

we had our own turn at a group picture and then we were off to feed the ducks

My verdict on the park: The Hole in the Rock hike makes my roster for “out of town guests”, it’s so easy nearly anyone can do it. It’s a thrill to do it the way we did it, totally unaware of how easy it was and how pretty the view would be. This will be fun to share with my out of town guests. Do you bring family to the Hole in the Rock? Have you watched the city lights and seen the sunset?

From the Peak of Papago,
Mrs. Kenney

If you visit the park: All gated roadways and trailhead parking areas are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the park located east of Galvin Parkway. Trailhead parking west of Galvin Parkway is sunrise to sunset or 7 p.m. whichever, comes first. Though gated parking areas including restrooms and ramadas will close at 7 p.m., the trails remain open until 11 p.m. Don’t overlook the nearby Nature Trail, .25 miles long and begins at the ranger’s office. It has signage for the desert plants. I’m sorry we missed it. (Links to all 4 trails in the park)

Shawarma: Avengers Approved

Dear Students,

When you visit me in the library and surround me and all start talking at once, you make me laugh. My best laugh this week was when Violet (age 7) offered appropos of nothing

“My favorite part of Avengers was when they ate Shawarma.” What? You saw Avengers, Violet?

“What is Shawarma,Mrs. Kenney?”

Shawarma is a wrap, and you can get your Shawarma on at Pita Jungle.

Pita Jungle - Mediterranean Roasted Chicken Pita (Shawarma)

Doesn’t this make you want a shawarma right now? Photo by Jason Aaron AZ (Flickr)

Pita Jungle is my son’s favorite places to go for our dates.

Brady always orders the Caribbean Fruit Salad, and we split it

A salad this fresh and sweet makes you forget it’s 120 degrees outside.

The last time we visited I noticed new paneling

Reclaimed wood paneling at the Gilbert, Pita Jungle location

I love their green ethos…Pita Jungle is a certified carbon negative restaurant

I love the revolving art gallery, love the healthy food at a reasonable price. Where is your favorite place to find a healthy, fresh food?

Wrappingly Yours,
Mrs. Kenney

Musings on Maurice Sendak

Dear Students,

Lynn Trimble says it the best, so I link to her blog post Musings on Maurice Sendak.

Before I became a school librarian, I loved Maurice Sendak.


I took his book to the store and matched the house to the book.


I named my son Max.

I know what it means to say I will eat you up I love you so

I want to have my room grow with vines and trees and become the world around and sail away. I would like that very much.

Thank you

Mrs. Kenney

Cinco de Mayo Nature Walk and Super Moon

Bolero’s patio in Seville was the gateway for our nature walk.

Dear Students,

This Saturday Brady performed in a music recital. My in-laws traveled from Tucson to enjoy the show. After the performance, it felt natural to dine on the prettiest patio in Gilbert, Bolero’s.


We had a post-recital family celebration at Bolero’s in Gilbert. Dinner in a restaurant is tough on my little guy, so we went for a walk.

Bolero’s overlooks a golf course and flanks  a wash. The area provides habitats for birds, jack rabbits and a host of small desert wildlife.


Swallows nest in the golf cart tunnel that passes below the Club entrance…we counted 83, but I am not good at counting

The curving path leads to a tunnel. Inside the tunnel was a long row of barn swallow nests made out of mud. We saw the swallows peeping out, some flocked outside, disturbed by my noisy boy.

You never know what you will find when you go on a walk. In the first week of May at 5PM, we saw:

2 road runners (male and female pair, on the golf course)

photo by Desert USA

Do you know that road runners eat rattlesnakes?

Black Tailed Jack Rabbit by Wolfpix

Max spotted the Black Tailed Jack Rabbits first. They were frozen in the wash. Frozen until Brady took off in their direction and they bounded away from him. Lovely, long, loping limbs.

Super Moon Rising

Super Moon by High Dynamic Reality Photography (Flickr)

It took us a long time to walk home. Max picked up a few golf balls and tennis balls. He tucked them into the waistband of his underwear to keep his hands free to pick up more treasures. 4 is a great age.I had some movies from Redbox to watch, but we ended up sitting on the patio all night, enjoying the family visit and the supermoon. Happy Cinco de Mayo! Where you able to enjoy the Supermoon?

With a lunar regard,
Mrs. Kenney