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asian americans/pacific islanders: activity ideas

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  1. Go Fly a Kite!

    Grade Level: 3-5
    Subject: The Arts; Social Studies; Science & Technology; Reading & Language Arts

    When warm weather arrives, many people get the urge to "go fly a kite!" Kite flying actually has a long and ancient history, originating in China, Japan, and Korea, going back two thousand years. In addition to being a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon, historically kites have been used for scientific, religious, and military purposes.

    Show students a sample kite. Point out the geometric shape and that the kite's body is in proportion.

    There are several Web sites with excellent articles on the history of kites. Send students on a WebQuest to research kites. Have them use the following site, http://www.riverdeep.net/current/2002/04/040802_kites.jhtml, to find out answers to the following questions:

    • How do kites fly?
    • Where did kites originate?
    • Do kites have to be diamond shaped?
    • What have people used kites for?

    Although your students may be too young to do it themselves, simple kites can be made with the supervision of a teacher, friend, or parent. Visit the following Web sites for easy-to-follow instructions.

    Online Resources

    The Virtual Kite Zoo:

    Kites and Kite Flying:

    Anthony's Kite Workshop:

    More Recommended Resources

  2. Eating, Island Style

    Grade Level: 2-4
    Subject: Social Studies; Math; Reading & Language Arts

    Take your students on a delicious Pacific voyage by having them research traditional foods of the Pacific islands.

    There are several web sites with excellent articles on foods of the Pacific islands. Send students on an Internet search to locate recipes from various islands. First, make a list of the islands you wish to cover. Divide students into four groups. Assign each of the four groups a different part of the dinner (appetizer, main course, fruit/vegetable, dessert) to "prepare."

    Assign each group two countries from which to locate their recipes.

    Have students use the following Web sites to find recipes from Hawaii, Indonesia, Burma, Korea, New Zealand/Australia, Singapore, Japan, and Vietnam:

    Have students write the recipes down on recipe cards. Talk with your students in advance about the role that mathematics plays in cooking -- discuss measuring and the measurement terms most frequently used in preparing foods (e.g. dry measures like cup, half cup, etc.; teaspoon, tablespoon; liquid measures like third cup, quarter cup).

    Work with your students and their families, or local restaurants to prepare an island feast, choosing foods from representative islands. Choose one appetizer, one main dish, one fruit or vegetable, one dessert.

    Set a date for your island dinner celebration. Have students decorate the room in an island theme. For example, ask students to bring in empty wrapping paper tubes and wrap them in brown crepe paper streamers to cover the tubes completely. Place each tube in a coffee can filled with sand, after covering the can with brown paper. Have students cut palm tree fronds out of green construction paper. Staple individual fronds to inside of wrapping paper tube so that they hang over the edges of the tubes, creating palm trees.

    (In most cultures, foods are associated with special celebrations. There are traditional food treats that are prepared in conjunction with specific celebrations. Have students investigate some of those celebrations in the countries targeted and find out what special foods are prepared in relation to those celebrations. Below are some suggestions for exploration.)

    Online Resources

    Asian Public Holidays:

    Taiwan (Moon Festival, Dragon Boat Festival):

    American Samoa (fiafia):

    Hawaii (Kamehameha Day, May Day Leis of Aloha):

    Taiwan (Lunar New year):

    Korea (Ch'usok):

    Print Resources

    Blue Moon Soup by Garry Goss
    Passport on a Plate by Diane Vezza
    Cooking the Vietnamese Way by Chi Nguyen
    Cooking the Thai Way by Supenn Harrison
    Tea With Milk by Allan Say
    The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Yang Compestine

    More Recommended Resources

  3. Inside, Outside

    Grade Level: 2-4
    Subject: Social Studies

    Prejudice is often predicated on physical appearances. By focusing on the internment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II, you can help your students decide what is really important in friendships -- what's outside or what's inside a person.

    When the U.S. was attacked by the Japanese government at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the U.S. declared war on the country of Japan in turn. A less visible war was the one waged on 120,000 Japanese Americans, 80,000 of them United States citizens of Japanese descent. These people experiences loss of property, loss of income, and loss of personal freedom. They had committed no crime, had done no wrong. They were targeted because of where they were from, and how they looked.

    See Online Resources below for Web sites that provide useful background information on the Internment. Explore these sites with your students under your supervision. This is not a topic that you should have young students research on their own.

    Emphasize to your students that it is not what a person looks like on the outside that determines who that person. It is what is on the inside that matters. Ask students to draw a picture of themselves on construction paper. Have them label their physical traits -- brown eyes, black hair, pretty smile, green dress, etc. Have them label this picture: My Outside.

    Staple a piece of construction paper to the top of each child's drawing. Have them flip up their drawing and on the paper underneath, have them write down five traits that they like about themselves. These might include things like, "I'm smart, I'm kind, I'm good at sports, I love to read, I care about animals." Have them label this paper, My Inside.

    Have students pass their Outside/Inside sheets to a neighbor. Have the neighbor look at the inside sheets and add one thing that they like about the person to the inside sheet. Monitor what students are adding to ensure that they are positive comments. Then, have each child read aloud the sheets for the student it describes.

    Online Resources

    Children of the Camps:

    The Japanese American Exhibit and Access Project:

    P.O.V.: "Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story":

    Japanese American Internment -- Santa Clara Valley: On-Line Exhibit:

    Print Resources

    I Am An American by Jerry Stanley
    Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
    Only What We Could Carry by Lawson Fusao Inada

    More Recommended Resources

  4. Where in the World Did We Come From?

    Grade Level: K-3
    Subject: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts; Math

    Introduce to your students the concept that in America, unless our ancestors were Native Americans, our families traveled to America from another country. Talk about reasons why people might choose to leave their country and travel to a new land.

    Immigrants have changed the way that we live in America. Each individual cultural group has brought with it new ways of dressing, eating, celebrating, decorating, etc. Discuss with students some of the things we eat and wear and do in America that originally came from other countries.

    You can begin this discussion by talking about how it feels to move to a new neighborhood or a new school and branch out from there.

    Once students are introduced to the concept of immigration, conduct a class investigation of where in the world each of your students came from! Distribute a survey for students to take home and fill out with their parents. Attach a letter explaining what you are doing and asking parents to talk with their children about their ethnic roots and some of the traditions their families still follow -- including foods, celebrations, religious traditions -- that are part of their heritage. On the survey form, provide spaces for:

    • Country(ies) of origin of student's father's family
    • Approximate year in which father's family first came to America
    • Country of origin of student's mother's family
    • Approximate year in which mother's family first came to America
    • Traditions that your family still follows that are linked to your ethnic heritage?

    Collect surveys. Obtain a large paper map of the world and post it on a bulletin board or wall. As students bring in their survey forms, use Post-It notes to affix to the map students' names near the country(ies) from which their families came to America. You can also use pieces of yarn thumb tacked into the countries and pulled out to the edges of the map, where you can list students' names if there are too many to list on top of countries. This will give you and your students a visual map of where in the world your class came from.

    As an extension activity, have students determine how many miles their relatives traveled to come to America. For younger students, count the number of countries represented by your class.

    Online Resources

    Scholastic: Asian Pacific American Heritage:

    Scholastic: Coming to America:

    Print Resources

    A Very Important Day by Maggie Rugg Herold (Philippines)
    The Royal Bee by Frances Park (Korea)
    Grandfather's JOurney by Allan Say (Japan)
    Tea With Milk by Allan Say (Japan)
    A Picnic in Octoberby Eve Bunting (Italy)
    Annushka's Voyage by Edith Tarbescu (Russia)
    Coming to America by Betsy Maestro

    More Recommended Resources

  5. A Diverse Community

    Grade Level: 6-8; 9-12
    Subjects: Social Studies; The Arts; Reading & Language Arts

    The diversity of the Asian/Pacific American culture is broad and rich, each group with its unique set of beliefs, practices, languages, lifestyles, etc. Have students work in pairs to research the specific culture of an Asian/Pacific American ethnic group. Some of the areas they should include in their studies are: language, religion, special customs, cuisine, family structure, and community life. (These are among many possible cultural topics; students can brainstorm others.)

    Instruct the teams to create a chart or grid on which to record specific cultural details. (Students may also want to use a world map to highlight the group's geographical origin and how it relates to cultural practices.) Once completed, students should post the data in the classroom for all students to review, compare, and contrast. Invite the teams to design a brochure, pamphlet, or mini-book that offers visual details, accompanied by narrative, of the outstanding cultural aspect of its selected ethnic group.

    Online Resources

    Asian and Pacific History and Culture:

    Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey

    Skin Stories: The Art and Culture of Polynesian Tattoo

    Society and Culture:

    Welcome to the Pacific Islands:

    United States Islands of the Pacific:

    More Recommended Resources

  6. Demographics of the Asian American/Pacific Islander Community

    Grade Level: 9-12
    Subjects: Reading & Language Arts; Social Studies; Math

    The Asian/Pacific American group in the United States is relatively large, with a population of close to 12 million or approximately 4 percent of the overall population. Demographics point to this group's successes in American society, as well as to socioeconomic challenges that require attention from the government.

    Have students, individually or in small groups, conduct research on the current status of Asian/Pacific Americans, using sources such as the U.S. Census and the Department of Labor. Among the topics students should review are: population totals, groups mostly represented in the United States, education levels, levels of income, health challenges, etc. (It might be helpful to provide a list of census categories; students may also conduct research by category.)

    Instruct students to compare and contrast this data to that over the last 10 years and calculate increases/decreases over time. What are the implications of these changes?

    Ask students to examine the most critical issues/problems Asian/Pacific Americans face and, assuming the roles of policy professionals, write a report to President Bush outlining the major problems and potential programs that would rectify them.

    Online Resources

    Census Highlights about Asian/Pacific Americans:

    Department of Health and Human Services: Fact Sheet

    Asian American Demographics:

    The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders:

    Fact Sheet on Executive Order for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders:

    U.S. Census Bureau: Asian and Pacific Islander Populations:

    More Recommended Resources

  7. Living in the U.S.A.

    Grade Level: 9-12
    Subjects: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts

    The relationship between Asians and Pacific Islanders and the United States has a long history. Not unlike most groups new to the America and/or Western values and traditions, people from these nations faced travails as they adjusted to and incorporated their unique culture into American life. Instruct students to research (or provide a list) and identify the various Asian American and Pacific Islander ethnic groups. (Using a world map to point out from where groups came could be helpful. Some background on the trust territories of the Pacific Islands should be offered.)

    Divide the class into small groups or pairs representing the ethnic groups the students identified. Have them create timelines of their particular group's journey to the United States, accompanied by narratives that highlight what they experienced during key dates in time. For example: events that resulted in their move to America, the challenges they faced in the United States, laws that supported their presence and contributions in American society, etc. The timeline should reflect how this group's journey has evolved over the years. Students might add to their timelines a prediction of this population's future immigration patterns.

    Online Resources

    Asian American History Web Sites and Curricula Resources:

    Asian American Timeline:

    Becoming an American: The Chinese Experience Timeline:

    Asian American: The First Asian Americans:

    Asian American History:

    Print Resources

    The Chinese in America: A Narrative History by Iris Chang
    Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People by Helen Zia
    Pacific Diaspora: Island People in the United States and Across the Pacific by Paul Spickard and Joanne L. Rondilla (eds.)

    More Recommended Resources

  8. The Challenges of Acceptance

    Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
    Subjects: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts

    Not unlike other immigrant groups or people of color, Asian/Pacific Americans have faced discrimination -- in the workplace, in educational settings, in the community as they battle hate crimes. Ask students to brainstorm the types of discrimination they know or believe Asian/Pacific Americans encounter. Instruct students to research specific historic and present day acts of discrimination against the group as a whole (or, students may opt to focus on one group) and then share their findings.

    Invite students to assume the roles of advocacy group representatives who fight to end Asian/Pacific American discrimination. Instruct them to create a plan of action and recommendations that they will present to a mock presidential task force focused on this particular issue.

    Online Resources

    Crimes of Hate:

    Discrimination Against Asian Americans:

    Anti-Asian Racism and Violence:

    Ancestors in the Americas:

    Asian American Activist Organizations:

    More Recommended Resources

  9. Meshing Eastern and Western Cultures

    Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
    Subjects: Reading & Language Arts; Social Studies; The Arts; Health & Fitness

    Immigrants bring to the United States their unique cultures, which, as a result of assimilation and acculturation, have become a rich part of American society. This holds true for Asian/Pacific Americans, whose culture is recognized and even practiced in myriad venues. Ask students to brainstorm the many areas in which Asian/Pacific culture is reflected -- from art to sports.

    Chart the cited categories, i.e., film, food, medicine, etc. Divide students into small groups representing some or all of the categories. Instruct each group to research specific examples of how the culture has manifested in this particular area and to present them in a visual format to the class.

    Invite students to discuss their findings: How are the groups' cultures typically represented, practiced, reflected in American society? What types of activities/practices/images are most popular? Do they accurately reflect the culture of Asian/Pacific Americans? How have aspects of the culture been "Americanized?"

    Online Resources

    Asian Cultural Icons: Hot or Not?:


    Community and Culture:

    Print Resources

    Eastern Standard Time: A Guide to Asian Influence on American Culture, from Astro Boy to Zen Buddhism by Jeff Yang, Dina Gan, and Terry Hong

    More Recommended Resources

Published: August 2003