Asia Society Texas recently announced a $10.7 million education project to transform itself into an “immersive learning center,” providing teachers with resources and exhibits to guide students in learning about Asian and Asian American narratives, perspectives, and arts and culture – curriculum that has been lacking in U.S. schools according to the National Commission on Asia in the Schools.
The major initiative will include two components:
- an Online Learning Platform, which will be made available first to Houston area educators and school districts before expanding both regionally and nationally
- an Onsite Exhibition, open to the public
Both are slated to launch in spring 2023.
The Online Learning Platform is a virtual storytelling experience utilizing interactive graphic novels to deepen middle and high school students’ understanding of Asia and Asian American perspectives. Rooted in humanities and STEM-based concepts, the platform also includes an educator portal which provides lesson plans and curriculum resources aligned to learning standards for seamless integration into classroom teachings.Asia Society Texas
“There is a great need for Asia-specific learning materials that are engaging and relevant to educators and students” said Rick Cruz, Deputy Superintendent for Houston Independent School District, in a statement.
HISD, the largest school district in Texas, is 4.45% Asian, 9.51% white, 22.19% African American, and 62.01% Hispanic, with about 100 languages spoken within its student population, according to 2021-2022 data.
“Our diverse student population will benefit from the intentional building of cross-cultural connections and the strong alignment to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS),” Cruz said.
Bonna Kol, President of Asia Society Texas, calls the project “the first of its kind in the U.S.” – given the combination of the immersive exhibition, which includes a virtual train ride through Asia; access to AAPI graphic novels with interactive lessons that encourage self-reflection and community action; and a portal for K-12 educators.
The Onsite Exhibition will be the first interactive learning exhibition in Houston focusing on Asia. This flexible and permanent exhibition will guide guests of all ages on an immersive and multisensory experience to learn about Asian Americans, Asian art, culture, and contemporary global issues. The exhibition is designed to spark curiosity and highlight the interconnectedness between the peoples of Asia, Houston, and the United States.Asia Society Texas
“To understand who we are as a nation, Asian American history must be taught. Teaching this demonstrates how our nation developed,” wrote national educator Freda Lin in a recent essay for PBS. “Also, these missing narratives of the curriculum can counter misconceptions of Asian Americans.”
At a time when anti-AAPI sentiment and hate crimes have been on the rise, Asia Society Texas says its new education project was motivated by a desire to address gaps in learning that can lead to intolerance and racism, and to combat bias through arts and dialogue.
The project grew out of two years’ worth of research with a 14-member Advisory Council, visits to more than 20 museums in 6 cities, and workshops with 30 educators and 120 students.
“As an Asian American who grew up in Texas, providing opportunities to foster curiosity and build human connectivity by elevating AAPI perspective is deeply meaningful to me,” said Gordon Quan, chair of the project’s Advisory Council, in a statement.
“I know how meaningful it is for a child to see their own story and identity reflected – reinforcing the idea that everyone’s life experience and cultural history is valued and important,” Quan said.
Asia Society Texas says it has secured more than $9 million in funding so far toward the $10.7 million education project, with fundraising ongoing.