Ten Great Projects Focusing on the Asian American Experience

Designed for students enrolled in any high school US History or US Government course

I’m a high school US history and US government teacher who has increasingly been hearing the call for high-quality, long-term project suggestions that:

  • Focus on the topic of the Asian American experience.

In this regard, I’ve produced this blog post:

Project #1 — The Adam Norris Video

Have the students produce a no-more-than-three-minute-long video that relates to the topic of the Asian American experience and corresponds in appearance and quality to an Adam Norris APUSH video

Created in 2019 by Justin Chan, Joshua Hom, and Neven Husson

Project #2 — The Reading Through History Video

Have the students produce a no-more-than-five-minute-long video that relates to the topic of the Asian American experience and corresponds in appearance and quality to a Reading Through History video.

Created in 2019 by Jessica Wong and Lilly Chen
Created in 2021 by Jonathan Fan and Dharma Avelar

Project #3 — The Museum Wall Exhibit

Have the students create a digital wall exhibit for a museum of their choosing, with their exhibit to focus on a topic relating to the Asian American experience.

Below, is a 5:23 second video produced by five SMHS APUSH students, with this video introducing to the public the students’ proposed exhibit: The Chinese in the Sierra Nevadas from 1848 to 1883.

Created in 2022 by Esther Lian, Sophia An, Hannah Hamawi, Natalie Chuang, and Russell Tsai

And now, an even better idea of what the students are envisioning for one of the walls of the Museum of the Sierra.

Created in 2022 by Esther Lien, Sophia An, Hannah Hamawi, Natalie Chuang, and Russell Tsai

Project #4 — The TED-Ed Video

Have the students produce a 3–5 minute content-rich animated video modeled after the hugely popular TED-Ed videos.

Created in 2020 by Lily Tong, Karen Lee, and Charis Cheung

Project #5 — The Exploration into America’s Past

Have the students produce a modern-day research paper modeled along the lines of what appears below.

Created in 2021 by Ethan Mo, Jaylin Hsu, Ben Guo, and Wesley Hung

Project #6— The Commemorative Artwork

Have the students produce an original work of art that attempts to recall, memorialize and/or show respect for an Asian American relating event or person.

The below-appearing acrylic was produced by Ellie K. while enrolled in a junior year, 2017, APUSH class. Ellie’s work of art is entitled Reprise and it seeks to commemorate the 1871 Chinese Massacre.

Created in 2019 by Ellie K.

Project #7 — The Fictional Diary Entry

The below says it all.

Produced in 2021 by Jim Wang
Produced in 2021 by Jim Wang
Produced in 2021 by Jim Wang
Produced in 2021 by Jim Wang
Produced in 2021 by Jim Wang
Produced in 2021 by Jim Wang

Project #8 — The Hip History Podcast

Produced in 2022 by Christopher Jang, Nora Chang, and Megan Linden

Project #9 — The Historical Fictional Letter

In 2013, my friend and fellow high school social studies teacher Scott Petri shared an article written by Cindy Heckenlaible entitled The Research Paper: Engaging Students in Academic Writing.

Then at a 2014 California social studies teachers conference, I read Lisa Moorhouse’s Edutopia post entitled Engaging Students with History: The Power of Slave Narratives.

Then in 2016, Scott also shared with me his article Writing Historical Narrative.

Then I viewed this video:

From then on, I have required my US History students to produce what I call a Historical Fiction Letter (a 750–1000 word letter written by someone living at the end of an important day in US History.)

Below are several good examples

The Korematsu Decision

Stella Y. / Google Doc: For her letter, Stella assumed that she was a Japanese-American who, while working as a newspaper journalist for the Los Angeles Times, had been assigned to write an article describing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the precedent-setting case of Korematsu v. the United States. Stella also assumed that she was writing her letter at night on December 18, 1944, many hours after Justice Hugo Black had announced the court’s decision.

The Attempted Suicide of Tojo

Ellie K. / Google Doc: For her letter, Ellie assumed that she was a 20-year old nisei (aka a person born in the US but whose parents had immigrated from Japan) grappling with thoughts having to do with her cultural identity and nationalistic views after having heard about Hideki Tojo’s attempted suicide. Tojo was the leader of Japan during World War II. Ellie also assumed that she was writing her letter from her home in California on September 16, 1945, the day after Tojo’s attempted suicide.

The Manzanar Internment Camp

Catherine L. / Google Doc: For her letter, Catherine assumed that she was a Japanese American who, following the issuing of Executive Order 9066, had been forced into the Manzanar Internment camp. Catherine also assumed that her letter was written after dinner on April 13, 1942, the day after she had first arrived at Manzanar.

Project #10— The Local History Blog Post

A few years ago, at a National Social Studies Teachers Conference (NCSS), I heard about the book Teaching Local History in Grades 6–12.

In this book, the author, social studies teacher Robert Stevens, claims that “there is a renaissance occurring in American history classrooms: teachers have discovered that local history offers students not only far richer content and more enjoyable learning experiences, but also a unique insight into our national character. And they can even address social studies standards.”

Though I have no way of knowing whether Stevens’ “renaissance” claim is accurate, I believe that the teaching of local history can provide students with several wonderful learning opportunities.

One way that I, since hearing about Professor Stevens’ book, have tried to get my students to learn about their local history is to increasingly call upon my students to produce a 750–1000 word Local History Blog Post (with a good example found below:

Little Tokyo LA and Our Tour of This Most Popular Tourist Spot

Produced in 2021 by Meghan Wong and Elise Hong

Sidenote #1

Below are several articles that should prove of value for teachers looking to incorporate the topic of the Chinese Americans into their curriculum.

Sidenote #2

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High school APUSH teacher with much in-class and online teaching experience. Also a blogger, keynote speaker, editor, podcast host, and conference presenter.

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Peter Paccone

High school APUSH teacher with much in-class and online teaching experience. Also a blogger, keynote speaker, editor, podcast host, and conference presenter.