Embedding Hmong Culture into the K-3 Social Studies Curriculum
In order to help students improve their academic performance, Saint Paul Public Schools in Minnesota is launching a new project, "Embedding Hmong Culture into the K-3 Social Studies Curriculum." The goal of this project is to encourage mainstream classroom teachers to support and increase student performance through better cultural understanding and appreciation. Saint Paul Public Schools recognizes that, in general, students learn best when instruction incorporates students' prior knowledge and celebrates their ethnic and cultural heritage. In addition, students who understand and take pride in their heritage perform better in school and show a higher level of commitment to complete graduation requirements.
Saint Paul Public Schools educates approximately 14,000 Hmong students, the largest number of Hmong students in the nation. The Hmong come from Southeast Asia. When the Vietnam War ended in 1975, they began to migrate, mostly from Laos, to other countries. Now Hmong families have settled in such countries as Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, French Guiana, Germany, Thailand and the United States. Minnesota currently has the largest Hmong population in the United States.
The new curriculum will provide elementary classroom teachers with professional development opportunities and cultural resources that embed the rich Hmong culture into the current Saint Paul Public Schools' social studies curriculum as part of the Minnesota Social Studies Standards. This will create a learning environment that recognizes and values cultural differences and similarities as a way to enrich lifelong learning for all students. Multicultural education leads to greater understanding and appreciation of diversity among students and staff.
The first professional development phase includes approximately 120 mainstream classroom teachers in grades K-3 who are receiving training in Hmong culture. The first session of the professional development started on November 3, 2003.