For Educators
Curriculum Title:
Sycamore's POW Camp: Face to Face with the Enemy

In World War II, captured German prisoners were sent to prisoner camps throughout the United States. Camp Grant was a POW Camp located in Rockford, Illinois.

During harvest time, many POWs from Camp Grant were sent to Sycamore. The POWs stayed at a temporary barracks on Park Avenue (located where Upstaging is today), and ate their meals in town. Many of the POWs worked in the local canning factory and harvested food at local farms.

Note: Materials are for educational purposes only.

Grade Level:
Sixth–Eighth Grade
Common Core: ELA R.H 2; R.H.3; W.HST 3 (for details visit

Illinois State Social Studies Goal: 14D Understand political systems, with an emphasis on the United States. Understand the roles and influences of individuals and interest groups in the political systems of Illinois, the United States and other nations.

District 427: Students will examine and appraise the causes and events of the WWII time period.
Guided Questions:
  1. How do we treat enemies?
  2. How did Sycamore come face to face with our enemy in World War II?
Suggested Activity:
  1. Show class the photo of the POW Camp from the 1950’s (see downloads).
  2. Ask kids to describe what they see. What do they think the importance of this photo is?
  3. Point out the guard tower. Continue to push them to describe what they see.
  4. Finally, tell students that this is a photo of a POW Camp worksite. Can they determine where the site is?
  5. The next slide (see downloads) has a few places marked on the photo to help explain the camp. Show it and then explain that Sycamore had a POW Camp during the last year of World War II. It housed 300 German soldiers from ages 16 to 25. They worked harvesting sweet corn, peas, and asparagus. Then they helped can the vegetables at the Sycamore Preserve Works. The Camp ran from June, 1945 to October, 1945. Before this more permanent camp, however, German and Japanese POWs were often brought to work in DeKalb County from their Camp in Rockford. They were mainly agricultural hands.
  6. In groups of 3-4, have kids use discussion cubes (see downloads) to further their discussion of the POW camp. They can roll the cube like a die. The question that lies on top is the one they must discuss and answer. If you want, they can record their answers on a piece of paper.
Suggested Assessment:

You can informally assess the students by reviewing their written answers to the discussion cube.

Resources & Extensions:
  1. Compare and contrast conditions in Japanese Internment Camps to the Sycamore POW camp.
    This comparison will allow students to question  how Japanese Americans may have been treated worse than German prisoners of war.
  2. Create a letter home from a German soldier  based at the Sycamore POW camp.
  3. Read the Geneva Convention to learn all the rules about how POWs must be treated.