May was Asian Heritage Month in Canada, a time to reflect on and recognize the many contributions that people of Asian origin have made and continue to make to Canada. Asian Heritage Month has been celebrated since the 1990s. (Government of Canada,

Celebrating Heritage Months is an important step in helping students to learn about themselves and others. Asia is such a large continent and has so many diverse countries and traditions that I learn something new every year I choose to highlight this month. Even though I am half-Filipina, our culture can be vastly different from other Asian cultures and learning more about others is a great way to honour Asian Heritage Month each year.

Working with primary teachers, we really wanted to highlight the diversity of Asia. We started the lesson brainstorming any Asian countries that the students knew – and they knew quite a few! They were able to identify familiar ones, such as China, Japan, and Korea. Then we pulled up a map of the continent of Asia and looked at so many, many more! The students were able to see countries that they didn’t know yet, such as Yemen and Malaysia. Looking at the map really helped to develop the idea that Asia is a vast continent.

We also showed a variety of photos of different countries and their landscapes, monuments, and architecture. We talked about how different countries in Asia are from one another because we wanted students to understand that being Asian can mean so many things, not just a single story or single experience. With this intention for primary students, we wanted to build this knowledge instead of reinforcing stereotypes of Asian identities.

I shared with the students about my own heritage as half-Filipina and how there were things about myself that reminded me of my family and culture, the foods we eat, my skin, my nose, and my eyes. The students also shared parts of their identities and this helped us to build our thinking before reading Joanna Ho’s book, Eyes That Kiss In the Corners.

In this book, the main character shares how her eyes remind her of her mother’s eyes, her grandmother’s eyes, and her little sister’s eyes. She explains how they help her to feel proud and connected to her family. We looked at the beautiful illustrations by Dung Ho and how they represented Asian identity. The students were enthralled by the stunning colours and the way the illustrations connected to the message of the story.

As we wrapped up, we asked students to tell us one thing they learned. They shared so many things! They learned that there were countries in Western Asia, such as Lebanon. They learned that there were many more countries in Asia than they knew. They learned that there were big cities in Asian countries, but also many beaches along the ocean and seasides. We were so excited to hear that they were also interested in learning more about the countries they had yet to discover!

Celebrating heritage months takes many different forms. I loved hearing primary student voices and helping to develop their curiosity and wonder about the world. I can’t wait to see what they want to learn about next!


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