May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. While we should be celebrating diversity and diverse cultures all year, May is a special time to focus on the diverse cultures that encompass Asia and the Pacific. In light of recent events and increased violence toward Asian Americans, it is more important than ever to embrace diversity and take a few moments to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage. Here are a few ideas that can help you celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in your classroom.
About Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the culture and history of people from Asia and the Pacific Islands. Many of these cultures date back thousands of years. Over the last 200 years, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have helped shaped America.
May was chosen as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in honor of the first Japanese immigration to the United States, which occurred on May 7, 1843. The transcontinental railroad was also completed on May 10, 1869 – largely due to the efforts and labor of Chinese immigrants.
Asia and the Pacific Islands include a vast range of countries. Each country in the region has different cultures and traditions. There are more than fifty countries included in this area, including China, Japan, parts of Russia, Afghanistan, India, Cambodia, Australia, Fiji, Hawaii, and Samoa. Because Asia and the Pacific Islands covers such a wide area, it is impossible to lump all of these cultures together and teach about everything all at once. It is also impossible to cover every culture that is historically tied to this vast region. Therefore, keep in mind it is best to pick resources from a variety of different places to share the diversity entwined in the people with cultural connections to this region of the world.
Ways to Teach about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage
1. Teach about the people and their stories
Read stories about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are American immigrants. Also, read stories or teach about how people in a few of the countries in the Asian Pacific area live. You can do this through read alouds and stories of people who are from these places.
I have a collection of stories called A Day in My Life. These are nonfiction articles written by people around the world, that tell children what life is like in their country. The following would be a great addition to Asian Pacific Heritage
2. Teach about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders using Picture Books
Check out my Book Recommendations for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I shared some of my favorite picture books about people with Asian or Pacific Islander heritage because I think your class will love these books too.
3. Teach about the Places where Asian and Pacific Islander Cultures Originated
Take a Virtual Field Trip to Asia and the Pacific Islands to explore Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Samoa, and Hawaii. And you can check out my Virtual Field Trip to Hawaii to take a more in-depth look at Hawaii.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Clickable Free Resources for Teachers
Click on the image below to access these clickable free resources for teachers!
I hope these ideas help your students explore more about the dynamic cultures of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders!