Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. The Asian American and Pacific Islander community includes about 50 ethnic groups and more than 100 languages.
This month, I talked with Andy Song. He’s a health educator at Washington State University.
Part of his job is to teach students that they’re not alone in their feelings or experiences—especially depression and anxiety. He does that by being open about his own life.
“This job allows me to connect with people,” he said. “I just did a talk-stories in the AAPI Center about my experience. It feels like a sense of trust when I go speak to people. Because I have experiences like theirs.”
But he didn’t always feel that comfortable. When he was in elementary school and middle school, it wasn’t always easy to fit in.
“That was the age when I was like, ‘I’m not going to bring my food to lunch,’” he said. “Because people told me it didn’t smell right, and it’s not American. So, I was like, ‘Well, I’m not going to do this anymore.’”
His advice to kids is to embrace who you are.
“It’s going to sound really cheesy, but be yourself and honor your culture the best you can,” Song said.
If you’re having a hard time or struggling with depression or anxiety, look for an adult in your life to talk to—someone like Andy Song. You’re never alone.
Here are some amazing historical and current AAPI scientists and some activities to get to know their fields.
Plants & Environmental Science
The first native Hawaiian person to earn a science PhD Isabella Aiona Abbott. She studied limu—also known as marine algae.
Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner is a poet and environmentalist. She teaches about climate change and the consequences of nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands.
Angelo Villagomez is an environmentalist from Saipan. He’s working to bring justice and Indigenous knowledge to the movement to save the oceans.
- Make Isabella Aiona Abbott’s algae cake
- Listen to this webinar about making art
- Check out 10 ways to help the oceans with NOAA
Computer Science & Engineering
You probably use something Ajay Bhatt invented all the time—the USB! That’s the cord that connects devices to computers and chargers. He didn’t stop there. He invented more than 130 things related to computers. Bhatt was born in India.
Fei-Fei Li is a Chinese-American computer scientist who studies artificial intelligence. She created AI4ALL. That’s a group working to make sure AI is fair. High schoolers can attend camps by AI4ALL to learn how to be leaders in the field.
If you wear a mask to protect yourself and others from Covid-19, you might have heard of an N95. That’s a mask that filters out nearly everything. The material in N95s was made by Taiwanese-American inventor Peter Tsai.
If you love using a tablet, phone or smart TV, you can thank Ching Wan Tang for his work to make their screens so great. His invention is called an OLED or organic light-emitting diode. It makes colors look more awesome on screens. Tang was born in Hong Kong and invented 84 things altogether.
- Dive into AI4ALL’s free AI lessons to self-teach or organize an AI class or club
- Complete AI challenges with Technovation Families or Technovation Girls
Space Science & Physics
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar studied how some stars explode and form black holes when they die. He won a Nobel Prize in Physics for his work.
The first Indian-American woman in space was Kalpana Chawla. She operated the robotic arm of the Columbia space shuttle in 1997.
Ellison Onizuka was an engineer and test pilot. He was also the first Japanese-American to go to space on the Space Shuttle Discovery. He died in the one year later in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In his last moments, he tried to save one of his crew members.
- Check out these AAPI astronauts who work for NASA
Roseli Ocampo-Friedmann was a Filipino-American biologist. She studied microbes that live in extreme environments—like Antarctica. NASA looked at her work to help figure out if microbes could live on Mars.
Barry Paw was a Burmese-American biologist. He used zebrafish to study red blood cells and a blood disorder called anemia.
Sometimes scientists use a green-glowing protein in their work. Roger Tsien was a Chinese-American chemist who won a Nobel Prize. He figured out how to make those green-glowing proteins glow other colors. That way, scientists can study many things at one time.
Nianshuang Wang is a Chinese scientist who works in the United States. He helped design mRNA vaccines to protect us from Covid-19.
- Check out this quick interview with Sarah Lemer and
- Watch microbes do cool stuff (can you say face mites?) with Microbehunter
- Make Bioeyes’ zebrafish development flipbook
- Make a Covid-19 simulator on Scratch
Weather Science & Navigation
Ted Fujita was a Japanese-American meteorologist. He studied storms and tornadoes. Some people called him Mr. Tornado. He made the F-scale, which measures how strong a tornado is.
Nainoa Thompson is a wayfinder from Hawai’i. He uses the navigation methods of early Polynesian voyagers to make a star compass. That’s a mental tool that involves learning where specific stars are and how they move across the sky.
- Watch this video about Hokule’a sailing around the world exactly like Polynesian voyagers did
- Then check out this news story about how star navigation works
Look for these books at your library
- Picture books for AAPI Heritage Month from New York Public Library
- More kids’ books from Seattle Public Library
- Even more books for all ages from Social Justice Books
Hispanic Heritage Month
Native American Heritage Month
Black History Month
Women’s History Month
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Community Science You Can Do
Do you want to help conserve monarch butterflies? Join this community science project from researchers at WSU, UC Davis and the Xerces Society—and report monarch butterflies you see every year between February and April.
What To Do:
- If you see a monarch butterfly outside of overwintering groves, take a picture! (Don’t worry, it can be far away and blurry).
- Report it to scientists using one of these options. Don’t forget to tell them when and where you saw the butterfly.
- iNaturalist (the app is free)
- Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper OR
- Email it to MonarchMystery@wsu.edu
Click the images below to learn more about monarch butterflies!
Interested in more ways to protect insects? Become an X Kid with Xerces Society
Add a little science to your next virtual meeting or distance learning lesson.
Share your love for science and add a poster to the wall at home, school, the library or the laboratory
Grab some crayons and add some color to these pages. Do you want to share your work? Ask a parent or teacher to send a photo to Dr.Universe@wsu.edu.
Every explorer needs a field guide. Scientists use field guides to take notes as they explore the natural world. How will you fill up the pages?