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Celebrating Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, & Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month

Expanding cultural horizons: Integrating AANHPI Heritage Month into schools for a richer learning experience

Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, & Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month has occurred in May since 1990. It first began with a Congressional Resolution to commemorate Asian-American Heritage during the first week of May, but has since expanded to include more cultures throughout the entire month.

This month signifies two events: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant into the United States on May 7, 1943, and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869, mostly constructed by Chinese immigrants. While May shines a spotlight on these diverse cultures, extending the spotlight throughout the entire school year will continue to bring attention to the rich heritage.

Pulling the focus into your schools can help students see beyond the typical celebrations, opening windows into the world of these many unique cultures. Our schools can highlight a broad range of cultures that can support their cultural growth and understanding.

Here’s what you need to know:

AANHPI is an umbrella acronym that contains all of the cultures within Asia, including East, Southwest, and South Asia, as well as the Pacific Islands of Hawaii, Micronesia, and Polynesia. As of 2019, there are over 22.9 million people of AANHPI descent in the United States, constituting approximately 7% of the U.S. population. As the most rapidly-growing racial group in the U.S., this population has doubled between 2000 and 2019 and continues to grow exponentially (Pew Research Center).

Here are some resources you can use to experience these incredibly diverse cultures:

Care Package - A collection of poems, meditations, films, and other works by artists, scholars, and writers curated by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center for Teachers - Curated content in tribute specifically for teachers (including online events!) by the Library of Congress, National Archives, NEA, National Gallery of Art, NPS, Smithsonian, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

American Archive of Public Broadcasting AAPI Collection - A Special Collection of over 230 public radio and TV programs ranging from 1965 to 2019 highlighting leaders in AANHPI culture.

Teacher’s Guide to AAPI Heritage by - EDSITEment! provides a collection of the best content on the internet that helps students learn more about the culture and its history.

National Parks Service Featured AANHPI Stories - A collection of videos detailing the natural and cultural implications of the AANHPI culture within the United States.

PBS Asian-Americans DocuSeries - Now streaming, learn about the contributions of Asian-Americans over time, as well as explore the interactive gallery of historical figures featured in the 5-hour docuseries.

If you’re looking to highlight major contributions by AANHPI individuals and groups, you can start with this list:


I.M. Pei - late Chinese-American master modern architect who designed the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris and the NGA’s East Building in Washington, D.C.

Culinary Arts

Cristeta Comerford - Filipino-American, decade-long-serving executive chef at the White House, the first woman and person of color to ever hold the position


Dwayne Johnson - Samoan-American actor and producer, and also a former football player and professional wrestler known as “The Rock”


Kamala Harris - current Vice President of the United States and daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, also having served as a U.S. Senator from CA and the state’s Attorney General


Celeste Ng - Chinese-American essayist and author whose work explores the juxtaposition of race and gender, with her second novel Little Fires Everywhere appearing on Hulu as a widely-popular miniseries

Raakhee Mirchandani - Indian-American activist, journalist, children’s book author, and mom, Mirchandani authored several influential children’s books that mirror her children’s spunk and hosts a podcast called “Brown Mom”

Space Exploration

Ellison Onizuka - Asian-American hero who perished on the Challenger with six other crewmates who championed against hate crimes

There is a wealth of information just waiting to be shared in your schools and communities to celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month! Tell us how you plan to share this moment with your school and students on Facebook and Twitter.


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