As we all know, America is the melting pot of the world! Because of this fact, we have people of all backgrounds and ethnicities making amazing contributions to science, the medical field, the world of sports and music, and beyond. Let’s take a look at some noteworthy Asian-Americans who have been extremely influential and successful in the United States.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu grew up and began her studies in China but moved to the United States to further her education at the collegiate level during the 1930s. She quickly became a leader in the world of physics. Her research provided advancements in several sciences. One of her most well known contributions was her time developing the atomic bomb with the Manhattan Project. She was not always taken seriously or treated the same as her male counterparts because of her gender, but she persevered despite this prejudice and was not silent about this injustice.
Steven Chen is a cofounder of one of America’s favorite social media platforms, YouTube. Although born in Taiwan, Chen spent most of his childhood and received his education in the United States. In 2005, he and his friends created YouTube to make the sharing of videos online a little easier. The website quickly became one of the most widely used (and extremely popular) websites in the US, and since then, YouTube has continued to be the leader of video sharing as it is used across homes and classrooms around the world.
Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga
Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga studies infectious diseases in children. Before receiving her college education in the United States, she was born and raised in the Philippines. Since that time, she has been conducting research in Massachusetts. The bulk of her career has centered around the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS. In 2013, Dr. Luzuriaga and her team were able to cure an infant who was HIV positive. This highly innovative discovery will help children with HIV live longer, healthier lives which is a cause that is extremely important to Luzuriaga.
Philip Vera Cruz
Philip Vera Cruz was born in the Philippines. He came to the United States in the 1920s. He recognized the hardships and low treatment standards faced by farm workers during his time working on a ranch in California. From this, he became an activist for the rights of farm workers by leading a strike that demanded better wages and treatment. This strike caught the attention of many, and it eventually led to the formation of the United Farm Workers Union. His contributions to the cause gave farm workers a voice and changed their working conditions for the better.
Sammy Lee was born and raised in California. His family is originally from Korea. Lee is an interesting figure in American history as he served in many different capacities! He held a medical degree, specialized in diseases of the ear, served in the United States Army Medical Corps, won multiple gold medals in the Olympics for diving, and coached Olympic gold medalists. He was the first Asian American male to win an Olympic gold medal. His many contributions led to countless awards in his honor.
Born to Chinese parents while in France, Yo-Yo Ma was a child prodigy in the world of music. He began playing the cello and performing at a very early age. He studied at the famous Juilliard School and later graduated from Harvard. He has been recognized as one of the greatest cellists of all time performing with well known orchestras and musicians from around the world. He has won numerous Grammy awards for his work. He continues to influence the world of music and bridge the gap between classical and modern musical styles.
Activities to Recognize Asian-American Figures and Cultures
Create an Illustrated Biography
Students of all grade levels can create biographies of notable Asian-Americans. Students can select an individual to study, take note of their important life experiences, and summarize those experiences in written form to be presented to classmates. Students should include visuals to make the biography more meaningful. Teachers can ask students to make those visuals the traditional way by drawing/painting on poster board or paper, or students can add visuals through creating digital presentations using pictures found online. This activity is also especially useful for virtual students.
Host a Talk Show
This activity is excellent for student engagement! Teachers should assign students to small groups and give each group an individual to study. Groups must formulate important questions that will be used in a classroom talk show where a student will pretend to be the individual of study in order to teach the other students about him or her.
Some of the questions may include:
Where did you grow up?
Where did you go to school?
What are you known for?
Have you won any awards?
Groups must decide who will play the role of the individual and who will be the interviewers. Teachers should allow groups plenty of time to formulate questions and conduct their research in order to find the answers before beginning the talk show. This activity will need a few class periods to complete and can be used for students of all ages. This activity can also be used in virtual classrooms!
Asia is diverse and unique. The culture of the continent can provide an array of experiences for students. Teachers can designate a day or special time to allow students to experience Asian culture. Students could enjoy popular foods, create art, learn some of the language, and dive into other aspects of Asia. This activity is perfect for all grades levels and can be completed through traditional or virtual instruction.
Virtual Field Trip
Another exciting way of learning about the origins of noteworthy Asian-Americans is to visit their homelands; however, this isn’t exactly possible with most school budgets! Now that virtual learning is widely used, more opportunities for virtual field trips have become readily available on the internet. Teachers could set aside time to allow students to visit famous landmarks (like the Great Wall or Taj Mahal) or to simply understand more about the land by seeing it in “real life.”