While students and staff throughout the Vancouver School District learn about Asian heritage throughout the year, this learning is highlighted in May – Asian Heritage Month. Two schools, Wier Elementary and Lord Elementary shared their stories honouring and celebrating Asian Heritage Month.
Every month, students at Weir take part in a school-wide read aloud with a running theme of diversity, equity and inclusion. Riley McMitchell, the school’s vice-principal, invites students to participate. Generally, a few students partake, and each reads aloud a few pages of a book while McMitchell records on video. He posts the video online for other students and staff to access, and provides teachers with activities that connect to the story.
This month, the reading occurred a little differently. A Grade 6 student took on the opportunity on her own and selected The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. The book follows a young girl who recently arrived in America from Korea and considers choosing an English name, fearful the other students will not accept her Korean name.
“The book is all about the importance of names and the cultural heritage that goes with those names,” McMitchell explains. “Our intention is that this book will start off a journey where we invite staff and students at future assemblies to share the story of their name,” he adds. McMitchell says the idea of doing this activity all year recognizes the need for sharing and learning to be constant, and not limited to certain days or months.
At Lord, students celebrate Asian heritage in many different ways: through listening, reading, watching, and creating. They listen to morning announcements by the principal about history and historians, with an emphasis on the fact that Asian heritage involves dozens of countries. Teachers at the school take part in mapping activities, and students in older grade levels discuss immigration.
Classes at younger grade levels read picture books by Asian authors, and books that centre around Asian characters, such as Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki. One class works on art inspired by The Great Wave by Japanese artist, Hokusai.
“Another class completed a personal ancestry project,” explains Margie Trovao, principal of Lord Elementary. “The students drew a self-portrait, and talked about where their family is from, and why they chose a certain artifact or image.”
Trovao also posts videos on Microsoft Teams for staff and students, such as clips showing images from all over Asia and stories about the first South Asian community in BC. She says sharing images and activities that represent clothing, dance, and food with students and staff demonstrates we are more similar than different. She plans to share videos of Bhangra and Tinikling dance before the end of the month.
The District and schools value the many, diverse backgrounds of students and staff, as well as the opportunity to celebrate Asian heritage this month – and to continue learning throughout the rest of the school year.
Learn more about how other schools are commemorating Asian Heritage Month!