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Celebrate Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

by Andrew Roush
Asian/Pacific American

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, a time dedicated to reflecting on the history and contributions of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) backgrounds. A joint project of a number of federal agencies, it can be a great starting point for discussing the realities of life in America for this broad category of Americans.

Accordingly, there are lots of resources and teaching materials that can help teachers create representation for AAPI students and connect this shared history not only to social studies topics, but also to all topic areas and grade levels by investigating the role AAPI citizens have played across many fields.

Learn more about this month, and discover resources to help you bring AAPI heritage topics into your classroom in this post.

Understanding AAPI Heritage

Official Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations are organized by a bevy of national agencies: the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

You can find many resources chosen specifically for teachers from all the participating agencies here.

As you can see, the understanding of AAPI life crosses many topics, including civics, art and literature, science, and more. That’s a lot of subjects, meaning you and your learners are likely to find something to spark interest and engagement. In addition the category itself, according to the month’s official website, includes many nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and more — from the Middle East to the islands of the Pacific Ocean. 

Tools for the Classroom

A number of educators and organizations have collected activities, A/V resources, and more to help you bring the celebration into your classroom. 

  • TeacherVision’s Asian-American and Pacific Heritage Month Resources page includes links to printables, art-based activities, reading and literature resources, and ways to combine and connect AAPI history with reading. 
  • Studies Weekly has developed a Teacher’s Guide to Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which covers the history and purpose of the month, as well as suggestions for fun films to watch, reading ideas, virtual (and in-person) museum visits, and even fun language activities that share various AAPI languages. 
  • The National Education Association shares an extensive collection of activities, full lesson plans, teaching guides, and more, all organized by grade level and covering a wide array of topics, from the internment of Japanese Americans to Indigenous Australian art and music.

Asian/Pacific American Reading Resources

The stories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout American history can be a great way to both bolster reading and literacy skills while also growing students’ awareness of their own cultures, and others. 

  • In her blog Imagination Soup, former educator Melissa Taylor includes 60(!) children’s books representing the AAPI experience. She notes that reading and discussing these works can help build social-emotional skills, which she calls “tools for inclusivity, education, and empathy building.”
  • Southern California PBS shares 12 children’s books your students might enjoy, including links to an author interview.
  • Reading Rockets has categorized tons of children’s books. Check out their full selection of books on AAPI topics here.

Recognizing America’s Diverse Cultures

Educators looking to include similar topics in the classroom for the many groups that call the U.S. home can explore even more resources from these TechNotes posts.

Photo via Library of Congress.

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