AAPI Heritage Month Staff Picks
The Classroom

AAPI Heritage Month Staff Picks: Reflecting on the Past & Celebrating Our Cultures

Dee, Kyoko, Nathalie, Saemin, and Sofia
May 1, 2023

In honoring AAPI Heritage Month, our staff picks celebrate the diverse perspectives of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. We’ve chosen classroom resources that explore the breadth of our diverse cultures, reflect upon the history of the AAPI community, and extol our vast contributions. Use these resources to foster connections between young people and build understanding and appreciation for all the many cultures that are celebrated this month. 

These resources can also be found in Newsela’s monthly content calendar here

Dee’s Pick: Brooklyn gets a new ice cream shop devoted to the flavors of India

From the Text Set, “Celebrating AAPI Cultures and Communities,” May 9th on the content calendar

Why I chose it: This story about an AAPI woman using her dual cultural identity to make a career for herself is inspiring and breaks stereotypes. Pooja Bavishi, used her multi-cultural identity as an American as well as an Indian, and combined it to create a successful artisanal ice cream company. 

How to use it in the classroom: Teaching kids diversity through food (specifically ice-cream!) can pique their interest and make students from various backgrounds feel a connection to each other. Teachers can use this article along with the article ‘Ice cream around the world’ to teach students about which countries represent Asian and Pacific Islander cultures. The answer will likely surprise students: India, Iran, Japan, Philippines, Russia, Thailand, Turkey and more! 

Taking cues from Pooja Bavishi’s statement, “There isn’t anything that connects us more than food and the memories that it brings up,” have students write about a dish they like from AAPI origin or from their own culture and the memories it brings up for them. 

Kyoko’s Pick: Life in an internment camp drove Yuri Kochiyama's commitment to social justice

From the Text Set, “AAPI Activism,” May 17th on the content calendar

Why I chose it: I am continuously moved by the life of Yuri Kochiyama and the legacy she leaves behind. As a Japanese American and life-long educator, her leadership and unwavering commitment to justice and dedication to civil rights has inspired so much of the work that I do and paved the way for generations to come. This article highlights how she dedicated her life to contributing to social change through her participation in social justice and human rights movements. I hope when students read this article, they feel inspired by the strength and bravery that Yuri leaves behind, feel proud of who they are, and are empowered to always have the courage to stand up for themselves because it means that they are standing up for others.

How to use it in the classroom:  This text along with others in the AAPI Activism Text Set will help students better understand the historical and contemporary issues that Asian Americans have faced and how AAPI communities have and continue to persevere. Using annotations, teachers can prompt students with compelling questions like  “what do social activists hope to accomplish?” to help guide and engage students throughout the article, build background knowledge, and help strengthen their critical thinking skills. 

Nathalie’s Pick: Native American Cultures: The Hawaiian Islands

From the Text Set, “Celebrating AAPI Cultures and Communities,” May 9th on the content calendar

Why I chose it: I chose this article because I wanted to get a better understanding of Hawaii’s culture and history. Even though Hawaii is in the United States, its unique history and culture is often overlooked. I think it’s important to learn about a place that’s primarily seen as a travel destination, in order to appreciate and understand the area’s traditions and history. 

How to use it in the classroom: The article tells the largely untold story of Pacific voyagers who migrated from Southeast Asia to Hawaii, thousands of years ago. This article teaches history through diverse perspectives allowing students to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the content. As students read the article and reflect upon the different cultural influences of Hawaii, have them answer the questions in the write prompt, such as: Which person or group’s perspective was most fully developed in this article? Have them consider the history of Hawaii through the diverse perspectives that influenced it over time. 

Saemin’s Pick: Life at the Manzanar Camp for Japanese-Americans in WWII

From the Text Set, “Celebrating AAPI Cultures and Communities,” May 9th on the content calendar

Why I chose it: I love history, and the lessons we can learn from it. As Winston Churchill once said (paraphrasing a quote from Spanish American philosopher George Santayana), "Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it." By learning from the mistakes of the past, we can all help build a better present and future. Also, as a journalist, when I hear or read about a topic, I like to do some research and gather information from several reputable, trustworthy sources to get a better understanding. I consider this a crucial skill to become a good and informed citizen in a democratic society.

How to use it in the classroom: This article describes the conditions and experiences of Japanese Americans who were sent to an internment camp during World War II. Teachers can use this article with the lesson, “Remembering AAPI Histories and Experiences,” to teach students about the history and experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II. Students can choose to read this article or others in the lesson and break into small groups to discuss compelling questions like, “What is the legacy of internment for Japanese Americans and the nation today?” 

Sofia’s Pick: “Amphibians”: A poem by Joseph O. Legaspi

From the Text Set, “Celebrating AAPI Cultures and Communities,” May 9th on the content calendar

Why I chose it: This poem depicts the experience of an immigrant so perfectly, comparing them to amphibians living 'on both sides of life'. As someone who recently immigrated to the US, reading the stories of others who have done the same is incredibly meaningful to me. As a country filled with immigrants, this piece is extremely relevant and I hope that it inspires anyone who has had to find a new place to call home.

How to use it in the classroom:  I think it's so powerful when students see themselves in the work that they're doing in school because it allows them to understand the lesson in the context of their own experiences. This poem can be read on its own for an ELA class, or could be paired with a lesson on the history of immigration in the US, to understand diverse perspectives of the immigrant experience.

See all our resources for May and AAPI Heritage Month on the Content Calendar.

If you liked this article...

Browse more great content from Newsela.

The Classroom

Teaching Cause and Effect: 11 Tips for Student Practice

Learn how to teach cause-and-effect relationships using lessons and activities that make the concept clear for your students.

Read more
The Classroom

10 Ways To Help Students Make Text Connections

Discover why it’s important for students to learn how to connect ideas in a text and tips to help them master this literacy skill.

Read more
The Classroom

Freedom and Celebration: Your Juneteenth Lesson Plan

Teach your students about the significance of Juneteenth with lesson plans for the ELA and social studies classrooms. Get your free trial today!

Read more

Inspire the desire to learn.

Ready to engage, support, and grow every learner?

Contact us