Celebrating AAPI Month in the Classroom
May 3, 2023
In 1964, Patsy Mink became the first woman of color and the first Asian-American woman elected to the United States Congress. Mink was a third-generation Japanese American, and throughout her tenure in office, she fought tirelessly for gender and racial equality, affordable childcare, and increased education. David Ho is a Taiwanese American virologist who helped develop many effective treatments for HIV, something which probably saved countless lives. The importance of his medical work cannot be overstated. Then there is Duke Kahanamoku, a Native Hawaiian athlete and Olympian who took home several Olympic gold medals in swimming. Kahanamoku is also credited with popularizing the sport of surfing, which many people enjoy today.
These individuals had an incredible impact on American history and culture. Unfortunately, as is the case in much of history, they are not always recognized for significance of their work. That’s why Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is so important. Throughout the month of May, educators have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the role of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in our nation’s history while helping students understand and appreciate their unique contributions. Here are just a few strategies to educate students on AAPI Heritage in ways that are memorable, meaningful, and fun!
- Introduce Students to the World: As author Kelly Yang has noted, “Asian Americans are not a monolith, we are a huge community of people. We have many different cultures and stories.” Educators can honor AAPI Heritage Month by introducing students to the many different Asian and Pacific Islander cultures and highlighting what makes them unique. This can mean exploring countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Korea while also teaching students about the different areas of Oceania. (Ex. Do your students know the difference between Polynesia and Melanesia?)
- Meet the STEM Dream Team: Send students on a learning quest where they’ll meet the STEAM Dream Team – a collection of AAPI individuals who changed our world for the better. They’ll be challenged to match a description of each innovator with that person’s name and picture. At the end of their adventure, they’ll discover how many they got right, and if they made any mistakes, they’ll receive clues that can help them navigate the quest successfully. When they achieve success, they’ll be rewarded with a short game that introduces even more great STEAM Dream Teamers!
- Break Out that Bookshelf: There are plenty of incredible books written by authors of Asian or Pacific Islander descent, and many more featuring characters of the same backgrounds. Share these with your students and create some time for free reading. Just a few books to consider include Front Desk by Kelly Yang, A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen, and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.
- Make a Positive Difference: Visit the Make it Real Share-Out Form (teachers only!) to share how students are making a real impact for AAPI Heritage Month, then see what other students and classrooms are doing on the Make it Real Wall! Consider supporting an Asian-owned small businesses or collecting money for a charity like Stop AAPI Hate.
If you found these ideas to be helpful, then be sure to check out the Blue Apple Timely Topic: AAPI Heritage Month – 4 Free Activities to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage. AAPI Heritage Month is an excellent time to expand the scope of our students’ horizons and get them thinking beyond the walls of their classroom. Let’s not miss this moment to celebrate with our students, and work together to build a better world for people of all backgrounds.