Schools play a vital role in our lives. They help guide students in establishing a daily routine, which are provided with access to new ideas and are given the opportunity to learn more about the world. School also promotes interest and empowers children with opportunities to become successful individuals.
As Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to an end, we had a conversation with Phoebe Jones, grade 4-5 split class at General Wolfe Elementary about how this specific topic is address in the curriculum and how this class celebrates and acknowledges all the immense contributions Asian Canadians have made and continue to make in our communities.
1 – Why do you think it is important to celebrate and acknowledge Asian Heritage Month in schools?
As teachers it is our responsibility to celebrate the heritage of our students and give them lots of opportunities to see themselves reflected in the activities, lessons, and people featured in their classroom. Acknowledging the many notable impacts of Asian Canadians is one step towards making sure every student feels seen and important while they are in school.
2- What type of activities and initiatives are you promoting to create awareness to this important celebration?
This year the students in Division 5 are creating an Asian Canadian Biography wall. Each student chose one person to research and write a short biography on. They researched where the person was born, what they are best known for, some notable achievements, and a fun fact to share. Each short biography was paired with a photo of the person in our mobile display. Students from throughout the school are getting joy from pausing outside our classroom to rotate the biographies and learn about some famous Asian Canadians.
3- How do students respond to the important legacy from so many Asian Canadians?
Students are keen to share the impact of their families and make meaningful connections between their lived experience and the things they are learning in class. In our class we have had many students share stories from grandparents and great-grandparents about their participation in various events throughout Canadian history. The more we talk about these events and take care to highlight them in class, the more I find students are eager to bring their stories from home into the classroom.
4- Is there someone from the Asian Canadian community who has influenced you, or who has a story that is interesting to you?
As cliche as it may be, I adore Sandra Oh. Her name featured heavily among folks involved in the Canadian Improv Games. The most notable CIG alumni who acted as a huge inspiration to my friends and I throughout high school. It didn’t hurt that she went to high school with some of my friends’ parents!
5- Do you think it is easy for students to find positive Asian Canadian role models?
I think there is a wealth of Asian Canadian role models for students to learn about, the difficulty comes in the way that Asian Canadian contributions have been historically erased. When we take the time to focus on those contributions the key players often become apparent and provide lots of inspiration for our students.
6- Was Asian Heritage Month always part of the curriculum or it has become more important in recent years?
Asian Heritage Month does not feature explicitly in the BC curriculum. Our class has made it one of our goals to increase our cultural awareness this year. This means a specific focus on highlighting religious and cultural events from throughout our communities and making connections to our own culture. The goal is to build understanding and empathy from a young age by being able to draw parallels between the ways all cultures share celebrations and traditions.