How Teachers are Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage this Month

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Every day DonorsChoose teachers are finding new ways to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage in their classrooms. Join us this Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month as we explore and digest (at times literally) some of the ways educators are celebrating the contributions that AAPI people have made to the history, culture, and successes of our communities.

Emphasizing Diversity

If you’re in Ms. Yokoyama’s in California classroom, you know that, “AAPI Heritage Month is a time to recognize, celebrate and honor ALL Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander ancestry.” This includes small touches like encouraging students to use the term “Lunar New Year” to be inclusive of all the Asian communities — including but not limited to China — that celebrate the holiday. And it also includes a huge amount of fun enrichment, including an Asian Culture Night where they hold workshops for parents and students, offer authentic food, read relevant books, teach dances, and share stories of inspiring Asian people.

Some teachers’ own experiences inform how they choose to bring the month to their students. Mr. Pond has identified a gap in AAPI education in his own high experience; other than the Vietnam War, AAPI topics and subjects weren’t really talked about.

“I do believe that it’s important for students to learn about AAPI heritage and culture because it’s a chance to understand and appreciate a diverse group of people who are oftentimes stereotyped and caricatured.”

—Mr. Pond

With that in mind, he’s planning to showcase graphic novels, books, and artifacts from various AAPI cultures. For him, it’s a way to celebrate the’s AAPI students, teachers and staff and demonstrate support and belonging from the surrounding community.

Connecting Cultures with Cooking

A person’s taste, both literally and figuratively, grows with exposure to different experiences. For many students, exploring different cultures gives them the freedom to develop their curiosity and acceptance of others.

The students in Mr. Andy’s Pre-K class in New York (and their parents) are forming their own culturally diverse family through cooking.

“Food is a big part of family. I want to connect with all of my kids and their family and the way to do it is through cooking. I am requesting materials to create a cooking cart where parents can come in and find appliances and utensils needed to cook a special dish to share with our family.”

Mr. Andy

The bonding that happens over these special meals can break down the barriers and create strong connections. Check out the items Mr. Andy requested for his cooking cart here.

Similarly, Ms. Nakamura’s students know that the fastest way to her students’ hearts and minds is through their bellies. Even though she teaches in the 4th largest district in the United States, her students aren’t aware that Asia is made up of many countries, including her own, Japan.

“When I teach them that Pika-chu, Toyota, and Nintendo are all from Japan, they are always surprised.”

—Ms. Makamura

To counteract this, she brings her own Japanese culture to the classroom, making origami hats and carp streamers, and teaching them to use chopsticks to eat noodles — slurping noises included!

Did you know you can request cooking tools, food, and other materials to help celebrate AAPI culture through DonorsChoose? Get started by visiting

Dance is a Universal Language

Mrs. Purin celebrates the AAPI community year round by finding fun ways to incorporate games and dances from different Asian cultures, such as the Maori song called Tititorea and the stick game that goes with it, or the dance from the Phillipines called Tinikling.

“One of my students last year had a grandmother from the Philippines and asked her about the dance… her grandmother was so excited to hear that [she] was learning it and they had something they could talk about and share.”

—Ms. Purin

Did you know you can request clothing, food, and other materials to help celebrate AAPI culture through DonorsChoose? Get started by visiting

Books, Books, and More Books

One of the best ways to open a student’s mind is to get them to open a book! It takes them beyond the superficial and shows them that even if someone looks different, eats different food, or speaks a different language, all people share stories of love and growth.

Mrs. O’Neill is breaking down stereotypes by incorporating stories about Asian Americans into her class’ daily independent reading time. Her students read books and share about their learning through weekly student-led book talks.

“[These books] will allow my students to understand and experience Asian and Asian-American people through authentic texts in which they will be able to make real life connections.”

Mrs. O’Neill

Check out Mrs. O’Neill’s project Open Doors To Asia for a list of books that showcase the authentic Asian-American experience.

Let Your Students’ Interests Lead The Way

Regardless of their cultural heritage, all kids are going to have a handful of subjects they prefer above the others. And regardless of the cultural heritage, there are going to be role models in those fields. Mr. Reyes’ students pointed out how rarely highlight AAPI role models. so his students are working to change that in their classroom.

“They have asked us to include books like “Role Models Who Look Like Me: Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Who Made History” so that they can do a Biography project around some AAPI Role Models…. So we have put together a collection of books that will teach our students about a variety of heroes across many different disciplines. We want to make sure that every student finds someone to connect with. We want to make sure we have heroes from Art, Literature, Music, Science,, and Sports.”


Take a peek at Mr. Reyes’ project, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders: The Untold History to see exactly which AAPI role models he’s picked out for his students.

How are you celebrating the AAPI Community this month and beyond?


Do you have everything you need to celebrate the AAPI community during AAPI Heritage Month and beyond? Create a project for what you and your students need!


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