The Puyallup Fairgrounds and Japanese Internment

Home Education Landmark Lesson The Puyallup Fairgrounds and Japanese Internment

The Puyallup Fairgrounds and Japanese Internment

For most, this lesson would more than likely fit into a unit pertaining to the Second World War, either the Homefront or Pacific Theater. In this lesson, it stands alone as a one-day assignment during the second week of the school year to coincide with Fair Day, an annual tradition that allows students to be released from school early to attend the Washington State Fair, or Puyallup Fair as it is more commonly known. In the Puyallup School District, this is a big event that students and staff celebrate; this lesson informs and/or reminds students of a history that does not dominate the headlines.

In this lesson, students will share their earliest memories of the fair grounds and other experiences that they have had while living near this celebrated location. They will then watch a short film clip about Japanese relocation, read an interview with a young girl that was sent to the Fairgrounds as a young child during Japanese internment, and be given an opportunity to reflect on how this changes their own perspective of the location, as well as how it fits into a global vision of freedom, democracy, and the American dream.


Puyallup , WA

Type of Landmark



20th century
Civil Rights
World War II

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to connect events of their own lives with those in history, documenting their own experiences and comparing it to the experiences of past generations in the same location

Suggested Instructional Procedures

1. Respond to Writing Prompt (individually, ¾ to 1 Page) (8-12 Minutes):

Please describe your earliest memory of the Puyallup Fair in vivid detail. Be sure to include sights, sounds, smells, etc. If you have never attended the Puyallup Fair, please describe the grounds as you have seen them from afar and/or infer what they might be like based on your knowledge of the fair itself and the grounds.

2. Afterwards, students will share with a partner (2-4 Minutes) and then I will ask a few students to share (5-8), in addition to sharing my own experiences as an example. For most, this location/event is a happy memory and that will set the stage for an expanded discussion on differing experiences.

3.  Briefly explain to students what Executive Order 9066 is and what role it played, before showing them the government film clip. (14 Minutes)

4. Following the clip, share with students that the fairgrounds was used as one of the relocation centers during the war, and why it was selected. (For me, because this unit stands alone in a unique time of the year, the history is brief and only includes what is essential for them to gain an understanding of the historical landmark as something other than what they may know it as) (5-8 Minutes).

5. They will then read an interview from a Nisei (2nd Generation) Japanese American  who was a young child during the war (8-10 Minutes).

6. fterward, they will reflect, aloud and on their sheet of paper, about what it must have been like to be a child/teenager during this difficult time period. I may prompt them to consider what items they might have brought with them (personally and as a family), whether they think education was available, what things children might have done for entertainment, etc. (12-15 Minutes)

Students will then have an opportunity to share with the class what they considered.

7. Finally, encourage students to share this story with whomever they attend the fair with during its two-week run:  To imagine that the animal stalls were used to house humans, instead animals, that this place of extreme joy for many was a place of deep sadness and loss for thousands. I encourage them to enjoy this place and take pride in their community but to also understand that its history is not always bright and that it is worth discussing and sharing.