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.
- Understand that personal stories are an integral part of history.
- Identify how stories convey emotion, spirituality, hopes, fears and resolution to problems.
- Recognize how to put into sequence everyday events and why the sequences become part of history.
- Connect personal outlook to making simple decisions and setting basic priorities.
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: Packing Your Suitcase (Kindergarten)
- Suitcase print outs
- Blank white paper
- Construction paper
- Crayons, markers or colored pencils
- Play dough or modeling clay
When we move to new places it is important to take our most favorite things. We also need clothes and shoes and other items we have to take. Ask the students to pick 8 things they think someone really needs in order to live here in the Pacific Northwest.
Have them imagine that each item they choose will be helpful to another kindergartner moving here from a different country. Ask them to draw pictures, cutout shapes from construction paper or create these items out of modeling clay.
Be sure to find out why those items are important. Unfortunately students will also have to fit some clothes in the bag too!
Sometimes it is easier to think about what we want to take with us when we can imagine the world around us. These prompts may be helpful to get your students going on this activity.
- What is the weather like where you live? What should they wear?
- What do you do for fun ? If it is a sport, do you need the right equipment?
- Do your parents make you dress up for celebrations?
- What do you wear when you go to school?
This activity is a simple practice in setting priorities and giving instructions to a peer. Anyone who plans to immigrate to another country makes these decisions. They ask themselves the hard question about what is important and what is not. How your students set priorities gives us a good look at how they view welcoming a new immigrant to their home and how they can be helpful on that journey.
Follow Up Discussion and Activity:
Why do people leave their homes and move to new countries?
How hard or easy it for them when they arrive in a new place?
When did your families arrive in the United States? Who came first?
“Sometimes in order to get the answer, we have to ask these same questions of our parents and other adults in our families. Tonight when you go home, ask your mom or dad who in your family came here first. How did they get here? Have they been here for thousands of years?”
Pick a day later in the week, for your students to come back with answers to these questions. The answers lead to the next activity.
Activity #2: 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.
- Postcard-sized blank white paper
- Crayons, colored pencils or markers
- 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.
- On one side of their letter, draw a picture of the first person in their family to immigrate to the United States
- On the other side, a picture of the one person, place or thing you would miss the most if you had to move to a new country
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.
Great Books for Your Class to Read Together
Aruna’s Journeys Paperback – January 1, 1997
by Jyotsna Sreenivasan
The Name Jar
New Clothes for New Year’s Day (Hardcover)
By Hyun-Joo Bae
Who Will You Be, Sara Mee?
Additional Resources: Asian Pacific Cultural Center,
Teacher Preparation: Do your best when practicing pronunciation. It will be critical that students can hear the words as they sound to help normalize them. Unless you are a speaker of the given language it is okay not to get the word perfectly. Students respond best when they see you try.
Activities and Readings: Differentiated activities, meant for classroom use and that coincides with activities in which students can participate onsite at the Wing Luke Museum