May is a hectic month for teachers. The end of the school year is upon us. There are standards that still need to be taught, end of the year assessments to prepare for and not to mention, students are getting restless. With the unwelcome addition of COVID, it can sometimes feel like an accomplishment just to make it through the day! With everything happening, it’s easy to forget that May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (or AAPI for short) is a time when we recognize the contributions and accomplishments of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and prosperity of the United States. For teachers, it’s a real opportunity for us to help students of Asian and Pacific background feel seen, while also introducing their peers to a different side of culture and history. So, what are some activities that will get students curious, engaged, and learning? As it turns out, there are plenty of fun lesson ideas to choose from.
Educate and Celebrate
Here are just a few ways you can celebrate AAPI month with your students:
- History: Introduce you students to Asian and Pacific Islander Americans who changed the world! Start by dividing up students into pairs or groups, then give them the name of an AAPI individual who made history. You can have them spin a wheel, draw names, or choose the individual they would like to research and share with the class. Have them research the person they drew and present their findings to the class. Be sure to include notable figures such as Amy Tan, Duke Kahanamoku, and Patsy Mink!
- Science: Introduce your students to the Lunar calendar. Explain that while many calendars are based on the Earth’s rotation around the sun, the Lunar calendar is based on the phases of the moon. Have your students research the different phases of the moon and how they can be used to measure time. Then, explain how people of Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese heritage use this scale for important cultural events!
- Literature: 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. Consider including books like 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.
- Geography: Help your students discover the world by placing countries on a map! Play a game of Sporcle and see how many countries in Asia your students can name in 10 minutes. Explain to your class that there are over three dozen countries in the Asian-Pacific regions of the world. They’ll see how high they can go and when time runs out, they’ll stop and learn about the ones they missed. If you’re extra crafty, you can make paper cutouts that students can pin to the map. Create a list of Asian-Pacific countries and give each one a clue to where they belong (Ex. China is the largest country in Asia, New Zealand is near Australia.)
Let’s Get Learning!
This time of the school year is always challenging trying to juggle all the demands year end brings, especially this year. Still, it’s important that we take time to celebrate what matters. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportunity to expand the scope of our students’ world and get them thinking beyond the classroom. Take this moment to celebrate AAPI month, recognize the amazing accomplishments of our fellow Americans, and leave your classroom feeling inspired!