AANHPI Heritage: Awaken Your Inner Hero

AANHPI Heritage: Awaken Your Inner Hero

Bring Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month into your classrooms with this interactive superhero lesson! Students will explore a world where superheroes leap from comic book pages to inspire the heroes within us as they learn about extraordinary AANHPI superheroes, Shang-Chi and Ms. Marvel, who not only battle villains but also shatter stereotypes.

Not only will we celebrate diversity and the power of representation, this lesson also sparks understanding and inspiration for the next generation of real-world superheroes. This fun, educational lesson combines history with imagination to inspire your learners to think critically, embrace engaged citizenship, and discover how they, too, can become active agents of change.

Enjoy this interactive lesson in three steps:

1. Get Inspired by Two Asian American Superheroes

Introduce your students to two famous Asian American superheroes, Shang-Chi and Ms. Marvel.

Meet Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel is an American superhero, who was reimagined in 2013 as Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenager living in New Jersey. Kamala, who idolized Captain Marvel, was a normal human teenager, attending school, doing her homework, arguing with her parents, and hanging out with her friends. One night, she was enveloped in the Terrigen Mists, which triggered genetically engineered DNA that gave her superhuman abilities to “embiggen” (change her shape and size). 

Kamala Khan’s emergence as Ms. Marvel broke new ground as Marvel Comics‘ first Muslim character to lead a series, embodying a significant stride towards inclusivity. Her stories resonate deeply by blending the trials of adolescence with the weight of newfound powers. Ms. Marvel is an excellent example for classroom discussions on cultural diversity, identity, and the meaning of heroism. Inspire your students with her story to embrace not only their own, but others’ stories as well.

Meet Shang-Chi

Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, is a character born from the creative minds of Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin during the 1970s, a period when martial arts were becoming increasingly popular in American culture. This character was inspired by the martial arts television series “Kung Fu” and reflects the era’s fascination with martial arts. Shang-Chi’s significance grew over the years, culminating in his starring role in the 2021 film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” which marked a milestone as Marvel’s first Asian superhero to lead a film.

Shang-Chi’s story provides a valuable resource for discussions on cultural representation, ethics, and personal growth. His evolution from a comic book hero to a cinematic figure highlights the importance of diversity and the impact of cultural trends on storytelling. Showcase Shang-Chi’s character as an engaging example to explore themes of right versus wrong, self-discovery, and the power of standing up for one’s beliefs.

2. Create Your Own AANHPI Superhero 

Invite students to explore notable activists, scientists, politicians, athletes, artists, and more — past and present — using Britannica School’s Asian Americans at a Glance. Then, have students create their own AANHPI superhero inspired by one (or more) of these real-world examples. Encourage them to think of the qualities, powers, and background their superhero would have and how they would make a difference in their community or the world.

As they go about their research, encourage students to consider some these main themes and answer the related questions:

  • Compare Heroes: How does the story of your chosen AANHPI superhero compare to the stories of traditional historical figures or modern-day icons in these communities? What similarities or differences do you notice in their challenges, achievements, or impact?
  • Cultural Representation: In what ways does your superhero reflect aspects of their cultural background? How important do you think it is for superheroes to represent diverse cultures and experiences?
  • Challenges and Triumphs: What are some of the significant challenges your superhero has faced? Discuss how these challenges relate to this community’s real-world experiences. How do these superheroes overcome their obstacles, and what can we learn from their resilience?
  • Role Models and Influence: How do AANHPI superheroes serve as role models for people? How can a fictional character’s achievements inspire real-life actions and attitudes? 
  • Character Evolution: How have AANHPI superheroes evolved over time in comics, movies, and other media? What do you think prompted these changes, and how do these evolutions reflect broader societal changes?
  • Societal Impact: In what ways do you think AANHPI superheroes have influenced how these communities are viewed by others? Discuss whether you believe these characters have helped in reducing stereotypes or promoting cultural understanding.
  • Personal Connection: Which qualities of your chosen superhero do you admire the most, and why? How does this superhero inspire you in your everyday life?

3. Stand Up for Justice

Follow your lesson with real-world ways to get students involved. Challenge your learners to think critically, participate in engaged citizenship, and explore how they can become active agents of change. Show them that they, too, can become superheroes and fight for justice by advocating for civil and human rights.

Ask your students to reflect on the following questions:

  • Do you know of any local organizations in your community that strive to promote justice and advocate for civil and human rights? If so, what are they? If not, do some digging to explore organizations in your local community.
  • How can you share these with others and/or get involved yourself? 
  • What are 1-2 actions you can take in your own life to get involved and advance justice?

Learn more about everyday superheroes fighting for justice in the AANHPI Community:

As your exploration of AANHPI superheroes comes to a close, encourage your learners to carry forward the lessons learned and remind them that the power to effect change and stand up for justice lies within them. In the stories of these superheroes, students find not just entertainment, but a mirror reflecting their own potential to be forces of good in their communities and beyond.

Information sourced from Britannia School. Not a subscriber? Contact Us.


About The Author

Mike Benson

Education Consultant
Mike has been in the education universe for over 20 years. His first 11 years were spent teaching various grades in elementary school in Dallas, TX. Now based in Colorado, Mike has spent the last 11 years in EdTech professional learning, helping teachers integrate technology into their classrooms and using the data to make instructional decisions.

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