More Ideas for Celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, & Pacific Islander Month

NOTE: Since this post was originally published, we have joined many in recognizing the specific call-out of Native Hawaiians in this month’s celebrations. AANHPI month for the win!

We love celebrating the diversity of our Movement and our Clubs! BGCA’s Susan Ciavolino curated this list of resources you can use in your Club during the month of May.

May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Month! It’s a perfect opportunity to pause and celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) cultures and the people who share that heritage. Over 60% of the world’s population, about 4.3 billion people, call this region home, with many others who have cultural and family ties to the region living all over the world. To learn a little more about this region itself, check out this throwback ClubX Blog post. The art, music, food, and theatre from Asian American creators all grab our attention and enrich our lives. The United States is so greatly blessed by its vast diversity, and Asian American and Pacific Islanders are an incredible part of that.

Celebratory months and holidays also make for special programming opportunities at your Club. The ideas are limitless, but here are a few to get you started at your Club.

Cooking and baking: I think cooking activities may be one of my favorite activities at Clubs. Chinese, Thai, Indian—some of our favorite take out foods have Asian roots, but many have been adapted and even combined with other cuisines to make uniquely American dishes. Check out these suggestions from the White House to get you started.

How fun would it be to try this Japanese Fried Chicken recipe and compare it to your family recipe?

Poetry: So we’ve all heard of Haiku, but I had NO idea that different Asian cultures had their own poetry traditions. (Of course they do…remember, it’s 4.3 billion people!) The nice thing about these options is that many non-poets can appreciate the structure that allows them to at least get their ideas down. Try out some unique traditions of poetic expression.

Art: Take a virtual tour of the National Museum of Asian Art at the Smithsonian. The Google street view allows you to walk through the galleries. Not very efficient but very cool to see the works at they are displayed.

In this ClubX Blog post, we talked to Puataunofo Tulafono from the Boys and Girls Clubs of American Samoa about how the American Samoan culture is celebrated at their Club. She sent us an amazing video of their youth doing a traditional dance, and suggestions for age-appropriate movies for a film festival.

Crafts (and more!): Our friends at Panda Express created the Panda Cub Club, a website filled with book recommendations, simple craft projects, and more. I really like the Chinese Shadow Puppets!

History: The Smithsonian also has many other resources to learn about AAPI history. You can explore them at this link:

The Library of Congress also has a compiled list of resources for teachers that could be adapted for Club use. There’s a LOT here to explore!

Literacy: We have a Summer Brain Gain unit on Front Desk, a book by Kelly Yang that explores the challenges and friendship formed among a group of immigrants from China who live in a hotel. It’s an engaging look at Asian American culture and a wonderful opportunity for youth to see other young people with compassion.

Want some other options? Check out the AAPI reading list at The Mighty Girl website. Books will take us places that not even our imaginations could send us, and a book club could be the perfect way for some youth to explore.

Science and Technology: The impact of AAPI scientists is extensive. Find some leaders and role models in a round-up of videos from PBS.  

MyFuture: We’ve got an activity on MyFuture just for Asian American & Pacific Islander Month! You’ll recognize some of the activities youth can choose from to complete the activity. 🙂 The activity and accompanying stars will be available all year round, but from May 10-31, 2021, the Club with the most stars completed for this activity will receive an award of $1000 to host their own AAPI festival, and those who submit over 15 stars will be entered into a drawing for two $500 awards. See the activity below, and get all the contest details here.

But we wouldn’t want to forget that this year feels different. As we celebrate this rich heritage, we also don’t want to ignore the hurt that is occurring right now. Whether it is the increase in hate crimes and harassment against Asian Americans or the devastation caused by COVID-19, our communities are facing a great deal of pain and tragedy. We can help our youth grow as they better understand these events, and take a stand against racism and Asian hate. Michael Vuong, Club Director at the Tenderloin Clubhouse at the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, recently shared his story in a powerful blog post.

A first step could be to use fun activities and programming to build empathy and understanding. As you enjoy learning about the differences in the culture of these communities, research suggests you might want to emphasize the similarities. The Make Caring Common initiative from Harvard University suggests 4 steps for adults to help youth see the common ground between themselves and people who might seem to be ‘other’ to them:

  1. Start by talking about differences. No need to pretend people aren’t different. Look for ways to normalize seeing people fully as they are.
  2. But don’t stop the conversation there. The next step is to look for things you all have in common. Try adding ‘just like me’ during some of these reflections. For example, they might say, “He really likes to play music.” Encourage them to follow up with, “He likes music, just like me.” 
  3. Use reflection time to explore together how it feels to grow from being uncomfortable with differences to learning to accept and appreciate others who are different. Ask, “How are your feelings about a person changing as you get to know them?” Be open to sharing your perspective and experience. How are ways you have grown by opening up to someone from a different culture?  
  4. Finally, be on the look-out for teachable moments, and make building empathy a habit. Many of these types of interactions will be spontaneous and organic as you spend time together in the Club. And youth might need your support in reaching out to others. Look for ways to facilitate relationship building across cultures. 

To support you, BGCA invites everyone to download the NEW Youth for Unity Planning Guide. This guide can be used to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in your Club or Youth Center. Included you will find an overview of diversity, racial equity and inclusion, helpful tips for incorporating Youth for Unity activities, sample check-ins for gauging participants’ emotional wellness during activities, a sample schedule to incorporate activities throughout the week, and activities for the four Youth for Unity themes for youth ages 6-18.

And as we always say, Youth Voice is key. If you have youth who are Asian-American & Pacific Islander, spend some dedicated time with them asking for their input. What would they want their friends to know about their family’s story? What kinds of traditions and experiences might they want to share with their peers? Keep in mind that the ways youth and their families may or may not practice cultural traditions at home may be different than you expect. Be careful to keep your own bias in check, and not to assume any stereotypes about AAPI youth.

Given the current climate in the United States where too many are seeing our AAPI neighbors as ‘others’, we can make a difference by celebrating the beauty and rich history together that demonstrates that we value all the voices of these youth and by extension all the youth in our Club. And that’s a message that needs to be heard loud and clear by all.  

What are your favorite activities for Asian American Pacific Heritage Month? How do you celebrate diversity in your Club? We want to know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email

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