Asian Heritage Month is an opportunity for us to learn more about the diverse culture and history of Asian communities in Canada, as well as to acknowledge the many achievements and contributions of people of Asian origin who, throughout our history, have done so much to make Canada the country we know and love. (Government of Canada,

Working with some junior teachers in May, we wanted to make sure we highlighted Asian Heritage Month as a celebration. The theme for 2023 is “Stories of Determination” to celebrate the contributions of Asians while recognizing the challenges that have been faced by the Asian community. We wanted to be aware of any student who identified as Asian in the classroom and to ensure they saw themselves represented in the discussions.

As in primary, we began by asking the students to name Asian countries that they knew. They knew more than the primary students were able to name, such as India, the Philippines, and Thailand. When we showed them a map of the continent of Asia, it helped encourage their thinking and vocabulary of Asia as it’s own continent. Many times, people refer to Western Asia as the Middle East and this language centralizes Europe on a map. Looking at the continent of Asia developed the idea of Western Asia which is a more accurate geographical description that centres Asia as it’s own continent.

Students were surprised to see how close Asian countries were to Europe, Africa, and even Russia. It was interesting to listen to them think through this concept. Comments such as, “I always thought Asia was so far from everything” were evidence of the new learning that was taking place. We also looked at how British Colombia was the closest province to Asia and talked about how that might influence immigration patterns here in Canada. We were fascinated listening to their thinking and to share our own wonderings as co-learners about Asia.

We wanted to maintain our focus on the theme “Stories of Determination” and use this opportunity to celebrate Asian Canadians. We invited the students to think first about any famous Asian Canadians that they knew. It was a fairly small list! We wondered out loud why that was and what we could do to learn more. Using technology, we invited the students to pair up and look through the Government of Canada’s website describing Noteworthy Canadians of Asian Heritage ( This site is a curated list by the Canadian Government with short biographies of Asian Canadians. This list celebrates a variety of people, from politicians to writers to athletes and more. It has a diverse representation of Asian heritage, including individuals from the Asian countries that were ‘new’ to students. The biographies are shorter and in language that was manageable for most students to read and explore with their partners.

As we wrapped up our learning, we asked students to share one new Asian Canadian that they learned about from the website. We really wanted to allow space for them to think about Asian identity as diverse in culture and also in contributions. Building the idea that Asians have contributed to Canada in many different ways helps to dispel stereotypes that students may unknowingly hold about Asian identities.

Finding ways to engage students in learning during heritage months is one way students begin learning about identities that may differ from their own. If there are students in the classroom who are Asian, this is a great way to centre and celebrate their identity, too. For some students, this is new learning and for others it gives them a chance to learn even more. Whether it’s a first step or continued learning, I encourage you to think about celebrating heritage months in the classroom together!


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