Connecting With Our Histories (3rd Grade)

The Thought

Sometimes it is hard to understand why people move from place to place. The experience of finding a new home, making new friends, keeping your cultural heritage has been different for everyone entering the United States. Sometimes, however, we find that our emotions, hopes and memories have a lot more in common than we thought. Encouraging students to empathize with other people’s experiences is an important  first step. Learning about actual historical events and experiences that have shaped Asian and Pacific American communities through stories is a powerful way to widen our world views.


The introductory activities included in this section are intended for grades K-3. Students will explore through prioritization, reading comprehension, artistic engagement, class discussion and personal inquiry the beauty and struggle of taking a journey to find a new home and what it takes for families to set down roots and communities to thrive.


  1. Understand that personal stories are an integral part of history.
  2. Identify how stories convey emotion, spirituality, hopes, fears and resolution to problems.
  3. Recognize how to put into sequence everyday events and why the sequences become part of history.
  4. Connect personal outlook to making simple decisions and setting basic priorities.

Time Frame

Variable. Each activity requires a different amount of time and will be noted next to the activity title. Some activities ask that students to inquiries at home and follow up the next day by sharing their finding with their classmates. Each activity is designed to work in tandem with other activities or by themselves.


Activity #1: Letter Cloud

At the museum we have a permanent installation, a cloud of actual letters written by people here in the United States and in countries of origin sent across the Pacific Ocean. Each letter tells the story of a family trying to stay connected, still helping each other out. For many of these authors, they were the first ones in their families to immigrate to a new country. These letters wave with the breeze of an invisible fan and sway to the sounds of ocean waves and sea gulls.


  • String
  • Letter-sized blank white paper cut in half
  • Pencils
  • Hole punch
  • Hand held fan

Your students will get to make their own letter cloud. (Of course, your students’ cloud doesn’t need to be so fancy!) Ask the students to draw two pictures.

  1. On one side of their letter ask the students to write a 4-5 sentence letter home. Have them imagine what life would be like if they were alone in a new place, trying to do something new. There are times when it is tough, but there are also times when the world around you is fun and beautiful.
  2. On the second side have the students pretend to be the family member who just received the letter. Have them write a 4-5 sentence letter in response.

Before the next class period attach the string to each letter and hang them from the classroom ceiling. As part of the morning meeting, carpet time or however you have them gather, ask one student to gently wave the fan beneath the cloud. They are giving good thoughts to everyone who makes the journey to a new country and leaves something behind.

Activity #2: Family Interview

(Activity Coincides with Extension Activity located in Chinese American Curriculum Lesson 3)

Create a homework assignment for students to find out stories about their parents and grandparents, or interview someone who is a recent immigration to find out about their experiences and perspectives.

Historical events can be personalized through the use of first-hand accounts. Learners can become privy to the thoughts and emotions of individuals who have actual experience of what is being studied. Through first-hand accounts, the students can get a sense of the personal agency involved, personal struggles, and the sacrifices, losses or gains made as a consequence of one’s choices or of historical events that influenced a person’s life.

In addition, learning about the struggles and achievements of members of one’s own family can often heighten appreciation for one’s own identity and family roots. Family and community are often rich resources for learning about oneself, whether one is a recent immigrant with roots outside of the United States, or has been several generations in the United States.

Activity #3: Write a Short Story

Using the stories you recorded and wrote down during the Family Interview, it’s now time for you to write a short story; like a picture book. (Suggested Style Reference: Grandfather’s Journey) Your family’s stories are as beautiful as any you and class have read. Write a story that pulls your classmates into your family’s story.

*When finished, compile all the classroom stories into one book. Ask the students to give it a title.