J-Term for 7th Graders

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Dear Parents of 7th Graders:

You may have recently heard your child mention “J-term”, which is short for January-term.  Last week and this week, we set aside our regular schedule in order to find the time to delve deeply into a particular topic.

These two weeks, the teachers have carved out significant chunks of time for the 8th graders to do the bulk of the work they need to complete in order to prepare for the Montessori Model United Nations conference in March.

We took the opportunity to gather the 7th graders and have them focus on “The Hero’s Journey”.  Last week we introduced the twelve sections of the Hero’s Journey, we presented many people that we deemed to be heroes and we began to list the qualities and characteristics that one needs to possess in order to be a hero.  Those qualities include courage, honesty, integrity, passion, leadership, commitment, patience (and, paradoxically, a sense of impatience and urgency) as well as a willingness to make personal sacrifices for the greater good.  Each student chose two classes (out of five offered) to complete during the two weeks.  Students are studying superheroes/supervillians, documentarians and photographers as truth-tellers, create-your-own Hero’s Journey story, heroes of hip-hop music and/or designing a public memorial to honor an unsung hero.

This morning, we were lucky enough to welcome a guest speaker, Mr. Sam Mihara, who shared his family’s story of being in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during WWII.  (Thanks to Melinda Morales for the connection). Below is a section of his bio:

Mr. Mihara is a guest lecturer at the University of California and a national speaker on the topic of mass imprisonment in the United States.

In 1942, the U.S. government forced Sam and his family into prison camps. He was 9 years old at the time. Sam and his family, along with everyone of Japanese ancestry living in the west, were removed out of their homes. He was first taken to a temporary camp in Pomona, California. Then he was moved to a permanent camp called Heart Mountain in desolate northern Wyoming where he and his family stayed in one small room for three years.

After returning home, Sam graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA graduate school with engineering degrees. He spent his career at the Boeing Company as a rocket scientist. Since retirement, he now travels all over the country talking at many schools, colleges, law firms and government offices. Sam recently spoke at several law schools including Harvard, Columbia and Yale. He is now a board member of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation.

Sam’s latest studies include the detention facilities for undocumented Latino immigrants and the proposed registration of Muslim Americans.

Sam tells why the WWII camps were created. He shows how people were removed from homes. Sam describes a few people who challenged the government of violating their civil rights. He tells what daily living in camp was like. And he reveals what happened to many when they returned home. And Sam answers the question – could mass imprisonment happen again to anyone?

We encourage you to continue the conversation at home about your family’s definition of a hero and examples of people that you feel are important for your child to know about and honor.

Posted in 12-14 - Chris Ambroso