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Breaking Through the Silence

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AAAI hosts workshops to bring Asian American history into schools

Julia Mun, Helena Kim, and Jessica Thelen

​In the wake of an ongoing racial reckoning, graduate students (from left) Julia Mun, Helena Kim, and Jessica Thelen hosted a series of workshops to help pre-service teachers incorporate Asian American history education into K-12 curricula. The three students are members of the University of Delaware’s Asian-American Anti-Racism Initiative.​

Editor’s Note: In the wake of an ongoing racial reckoning across the nation, the University of Delaware’s Asian-American Anti-Racism Initiative (AAAI) recognized a need to incorporate Asian American history into the K-12 curriculum. Members of the AAAI, a subcommittee of UD’s Anti-Racism Initiative, are faculty and graduate students from the departments of Art History, English, Climatology, and Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. Art History graduate student Julia Mun and fellow AAAI members Helena Kim and Jessica Thelen (both graduate students studying English) described their outreach initiative to host a series of virtual workshops for pre-service teachers in May and June 2022.

Teachers frequently struggle to find relevant educational materials to discuss with their students because they are unsure how to navigate finding and using Asian American-related resources. To provide a clearer guide for teachers, we centered our discussion on material objects that represented Asian American memories and narratives. We highlighted digital archives, podcast series, and artwork collections that have grown over time, but have remained largely unseen.

We introduced several digital projects to demonstrate the value of material culture studies. The educational approach remains underutilized in K–12 classrooms, but it has the potential to empower the underrepresented and build a better and inclusive future.

We focused on the Densho Digital Repository, a digital archive that documents the stories of Japanese Americans who were unjustly imprisoned during World War II. Densho (傳承) in Japanese means to transmit or "pass on to the next generation," thereby leaving a legacy. By interacting with multimedia formats on the website, students can listen to unheard voices and narratives.

Students can learn more about Japanese American history by examining print materials like photographs, advertisements, and personal letters in the Japanese American Relocation Digital Archive (JARDA). The Long Distance Radio podcast features stories from the Filipino diaspora. The series chronicles the Filipino experiences, ranging from individuals in an early 20th century Californian town to a hospital in New Jersey during the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAPI Community COVID Archival Project documents the shared experiences of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities during the pandemic.

While the workshops were successful, we realized that looking through archives is often a difficult process. The plethora of material and lack of understandable search terms complicates how educational materials can be found. Teachers are already overburdened with preparing for their students, so finding a streamlined solution was necessary. We created a website that not only incorporated all the resources we shared in the workshops but also proposed visual materials for teachers to use in their lesson plans.

Overall, we emphasized the importance of creating an open, engaging and safe environment in which both teachers and learners feel comfortable. There is often an unspoken fear of misrepresenting the stories of marginalized people. Fear can cause individuals in the classroom—and society as a whole—to remain silent, significantly delaying efforts to create a constructive environment for anti-racist education. We hope that the upcoming UDARI-AAAI workshops will continue to break the silence. Thus, we choose to call in, rather than call out.

About the Department of Art History

The Department of Art History at the University of Delaware is dedicated to education and research in the history of the visual arts. It has an established national and international reputation as the home of leading specialists in the field. It is also a hub for accessing important art centers in the Mid-Atlantic region. With special strengths in American and European art and architecture, the department offers an expansive coverage of the arts and culture of historical periods internationally, from Greco-Roman antiquity to the present. Broader geo-cultural fields are covered as well, such as Chinese, Latin American, and African art.

The Department of Art History is committed to undergraduate education for majors and non-majors and to training graduate students who will be competitive at the higher reaches of their discipline as educators, museum curators, and scholars. Its undergraduate program includes the general major, nine double majors, two minors, honors degrees, and an option for majors to earn an M.A. degree through the 4+1 program. For graduate students, the department offers M.A. and Ph.D. degrees.

Article by Helena Kim, Julia Mun, and Jessica Thelen, University of Delaware graduate students and members of UD Asian-American Anti-Racism Initiative

Images courtesy of Julia Mun, Helena Kim, Jessica Thelen, and Evan Krape.

September 8, 2022

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UD graduate students hosted workshops for pre-service teachers to incorporate more Asian American history into K-12 curricula.
Art History
 
9/8/2022
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