A team of sixth-graders from Enchanted Lake Elementary School came in first in a national Thinkquest USA contest for a Web site project titled "Why Is My Loyalty Questioned?"
win national prize
They compared bias against
Muslim and Japanese Americans
By Pat Gee
The students, competing against sixth- to eighth-graders from 325 other schools, compared prejudice against Japanese Americans during World War II to the current post-Sept. 11 judgments against American Muslims.
The nine students belong to the gifted and talented class under teacher Mari Nomura. They include Ayo Sawada, Kyley Zabriskie, Kelson Higashi, Joshua Morgan, Kerianne Kubota, Amanda Vegas, Christina Wong, Allison Kawano and Rebecca Bjorke. Each won a digital camera.
Sawada said she and her classmates were "surprised how people can be so racist" when they saw signs such as "No Japanese Allowed" in their World War II research. And she got angry when she "heard about the shooting of a Muslim at a gas station. He was killed for just meeting with other Muslims to talk about keeping safe."
Working on the Web site taught Sawada about "how to treat other people and not judge people on how they look or if they act differently. We just have to try to accept everyone."
They started working on the project last summer, taking excursions to the Arizona Memorial, the 442nd Clubhouse and the Japanese Cultural Center, and stayed two hours after school every week since September.
"I was surprised we won. We were all screaming, we were so happy and excited!" she added.
But Nomura said she was not really surprised they won, because "I saw how hard they worked and the time and effort they invested."
Thinkquest USA is a national program that allows children to build educational Web sites to promote interest in computers, technology and the Internet.
Nomura's entire gifted class, including grades four and five, also won a second-place prize for their entry in the Cyberfair contest, which allows competitors from ages 5 to 19, she said. The students did research on the same topic of prejudice in their community and related it to current events.
The two projects were funded by a $4,000 grant Nomura applied for from the Cottington Trust for Gifted Children of the Hawaii Community Foundation. The Web site addresses are library.thinkquest.org/CR0210341 and www.gsh.org/cf/_cfm/ViewNarrative.cfm?narr=215.
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