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Untold Stories Discussion Guide

The National Parks embody the unique American ideal of setting aside vast pieces of land for the purpose of preserving the natural environment and cultural history so all residents of America have access to them. The Untold Stories project features a series of dynamic and engaging stories about the role of African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and American Indians in the creation and protection of individual parks. The goal is to bring to light the contributions of individuals from these diverse groups and to engage new and traditionally underserved audiences in the educational richness of the national parks.

The Untold Stories mini-documentaries present a contemporary look at our national parks through extraordinary people from a wide variety of backgrounds who devoted their lives to the national park ideal – to preserve and protect these special places for everyone, for all time–and helped it broaden and evolve over the course of 150 years.

The following discussion modules can be used in conjunction with other lessons in the guide or as stand-alone teaching materials. Before you view, go over the introduction and pre-viewing themes with your students. As they view, have them pay particular attention to the individuals featured and the connections between past and present in each story.

City Kids in the National Parks

Themes

  • The need for people to experience the parks.
  • The parks as cultural nationalism preserved for current and future generations; natural wonders seen nowhere else on earth.
  • Providing a park experience for current and future generations.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think it's important for all students, especially students with little or no outdoor familiarity, to have a national park experience?
  2. How did the field trip to the Ubehebe Crater provide students with an integrated lesson? What are the advantages to this type of learning?
  3. Why do you think the students at Death Valley were better behaved and focused during the field experience than in the classroom?
  4. How did the activities students experienced during the camping trip at Death Valley and at Elliot Key at Biscayne National Park help build their self-esteem? How did these experiences help build life skills?

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Untold Stories - City Kids in National Parks


Manzanar: "Never Again"

Themes

  • How the park system evolves from preserving the scenic wonders to historic sites
  • People involved with the parks from every background
  • The parks as cultural nationalism preserved for current and future generations
  • Providing a park experience for current and future generations
  • How a group of committed individuals can work together to bring national attention to a site that should be remembered

Discussion Questions

  1. Right after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, many Japanese Americans were unsure of their future. Why do you think Sue Kunitomi's brother felt that even though he was of Japanese descent, his family wouldn't be taken away?
  2. Discuss some of the ironies for Japanese-American internees living in the camps: holding citizenship ceremonies; sending their sons off to fight in the 442nd Infantry Regiment; and temporarily leaving the camp to go fishing. How should a country at war balance its citizens' civil liberties and the need for national security?
  3. How were Sue Kunitomi Embrey's efforts to establish Manzanar as a state historic landmark a demonstration of patriotism?
  4. How does the fact that our country established a national site to honor a difficult period in our past reflect on us as a nation? In what other ways does our nation honor its tragedies along with its triumphs?

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Untold Stories - Manzanar


Mount Rushmore: Telling America's Stories

Themes:

  • The idea of America, full of competing demands and interests
  • The parks as cultural nationalism preserved for current and future generations
  • How the park system evolved from preserving the scenic wonders to historic sites and memorials

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think so many people who come to Mount Rushmore leave with a feeling of inspiration and patriotic pride?
  2. Why did the sculpting of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota generate animosity and bitterness among American Indians?
  3. Gerard Baker is the first America Indian to be superintendent of Mount Rushmore. How does his ethnic heritage give him a unique perspective in telling the story of the people who lived in the Black Hills?
  4. Discuss your thoughts on the inclusion of American Indian history and culture at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
  5. How can the national parks strike an appropriate balance between honoring America's greatest achievements and also telling the story of those Americans who didn't always benefit from those achievements?

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Untold Stories - Mount Rushmore


San Antonio Missions: Keeping History Alive

Themes

  • How the park system evolves from preserving the scenic wonders to historic sites
  • People involved with the parks from every background
  • The parks as cultural nationalism preserved for current and future generations
  • Providing a park experience for current and future generations
  • Relationship between church and state

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important for communities to seek out and preserve cultural areas and landmarks that have historical significance?
  2. How is the division of responsibilities for maintaining the San Antonio National Historical Park a unique blend of church and state? Do you feel this is an appropriate relationship between church and state?
  3. How do public celebrations at the San Antonio Historic Park like "Day of the Dead" help increase understanding between local citizens and park visitors?
  4. The local community is actively involved in many aspects of the San Antonio Historic Park program. How does such community participation contribute to the national park's mission to preserve America's natural and historic sites for current and future generations and also benefit the communities where they are located?

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Untold Stories - San Antonio Missions


Yosemite Buffalo Soldiers

Themes:

  • People involved with the parks from every background
  • The parks as cultural nationalism preserved for current and future generations; natural wonders seen nowhere else on earth
  • The need for people to see the parks to build support for their creation and preservation
  • The impact one person can have, through education, on generations of others
  • The importance of telling "lost" stories to visitors in the parks

Discussion Questions:

  1. African-American visitors comprise less than one percent of the visitation to Yosemite National Park. Why do you think this is so?
  2. How does the story of the Buffalo Soldiers serving as official stewards of Sequoia and Yosemite national parks break down many of the stereotypes about African Americans at that time?
  3. How does Shelton Johnson's work at Yosemite help provide a greater understanding of the contributions of African Americans to the national parks?
  4. Shelton Johnson has made it his life's work to connect the general African-American population to the national parks. How has he individually worked to do this? What additional ideas do you have that would help him achieve this goal?

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Untold Stories - Yosemite's Buffalo Soldiers


A proud tourist points at her National Parks windshield stickers, 1922; David Brower in Glen Canyon, 1966; Dayton Duncan's son, Will, standing at edge of canyon. Bryce Canyon National Park, 1998

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