Organizing lecture and laboratory practice for high school students
On April 4th, we organized a lecture introducing synthetic biology specially for high- school level students. For those who had attended our lecture, we provided a-whole-day lab practice. During the lecture, we introduced the history of synthetic biology and the infl uence and core idea of iGEM, explained how DNA is functioning within our bodies, how we created a component part utilizing synthetic biology and the underlying mechanism of editing cells. The following lab practice was coupled with this lecture, experiments composed of cultivating cells, exposing yeasts to UV rays and observing their color with microscope were a great help for attenders to understand basic biological techniques. After the experiments, we analyzed the outcomes and mistakes made during the operation, which was aiming at establishing the concept of laboratory safety and a habit of reflection for these beginners.
In China, high school students will determine whether to learn art or science in the second year. Thus, it really matters for those students to learn science if they want to further their study in biology. As for our workshop, we hope through the experience of laboratory practice and lecture for synthetic biology, more students will be attracted to the field of synthetic biology, or biology.
This was the first that we organized such activity. After organizing and participating in the activity, we found that in China, most students are rather introversive. For example, seldom did any student voluntarily ask for a chance to have a try during laboratory practice. However, if we asked them to take a try, they would obey and do whatever we asked them to do. Chinese students are rather passive in learning, and that does not agree with our initial aspiration of setting this activity. Thus, we decided to figure out some methods to change the situation, including more encouragement, less participation of teachers in laboratory practice and better preparation before the workshop.
We created a platform based on WeChat, the most popular social media in China, to promote the publicity of our team, enhance the interaction between us and people interested in synthetic biology and our project, and popularize basic concept and knowledge of synthetic biology
As to promote the publicity of our team, we designed a series of articles introducing our team members, with one member each time, about their experience as iGEMRs and their advice. This series achieved a great success, attracted many college students to synthetic biology and followed our official accounts.
Another series of articles was aiming at introducing basic knowledge about synthetic biology. A total of 10 articles were published, with an interval of 2 weeks for each article. Themes included basic concept in synthetic biology, bacteria in daily life, jobs related to synthetic biology, interesting stories in synthetic biology, application of synthetic biology and timelines of synthetic biology. Our readers were composed mostly of college students and some high school students, and we received many favorable remarks and request to publish our articles once a week.
Either series has attracted many followers. With every article published, we would receive many comments, and we really appreciated those who pointed out something we miss. Besides, the most frequently asked question was how should a person get prepared in order to qualify himself or herself as an iGEMr in the coming year.
We set this official account not only to publicize our team and iGEM, but also as kind of heritage within our team. Adjustments of our group members happen every year owing to various reasons. With all those pictures and articles we have created, horrible mistakes will be avoided, valuable experience will be shared, and deep friendship will be constituted.
The first series published in our official account was introduction to our team members, which won us many followers and comments. Since then, we keep receiving requirements of asking for articles introducing synthetic biology and iGEM, and this year, our team started with the series about basic knowledge in synthetic biology. Just as the first series, it also struck a great success.
In the coming year, we hope to continue with work of our official account. It is a platform between us and those who are interested in our project, our team, iGEM and synthetic biology. With this platform, more people will learn about us, iGEM and synthetic biology. Popularization of synthetic biology to people from all walks of life was the initial aspiration of creating this official account. Fortunately, we did receive certain success at the beginning. Undoubtedly, we will persist in the work of popularizing synthetic biology to more and more people.
Volunteer teaching in Henan Province
On July, we went to Henan Province as volunteer teachers again. Our team was composed of students with medical background and students with biological background. Thus, we planned to share knowledge about management of personal health for adults. As for young children, we planned to share some basic ideas and achievements of genetic engineering and synthetic biology. The whole activity lasted for 3 days, and it were well received by local people. Before we left, they said that they were looking forward to our next visit.
Our team is composed of students from all over China. We have different backgrounds, education and experience. Specially, most of us come from a military school, which offers us a better opportunity to understand the economic inequality in China. For us, our university is located in Shanghai, and we are accepting education from one of the best medical college in China. Advanced concept like synthetic biology, cell therapy constitutes our daily life. However, in most part of China, children have to leave their study before high school owing to economic reason. Thus, we feel it necessary to make some difference with our strength.
During the few days in Henan Province, what impressed us most was the passion of local people. They welcomed us warmly, and each of our lecture about synthetic were full of young students. A few documentary films about synthetic biology were played outdoor, with audience ranged from 10-year-old boy to adults. They all stared at the screen with full attention without any conversion. No one ever left before the film came to the end.
After this experience, we learned that despite those physical obstacles, people’s curiosity and interest for science are always the same. For most of the time, an opportunity could change the whole life of a person. Thus, we decided to integrate volunteer teaching as part of the heritage of our team. Even though the road ahead is definitely not smooth, we will never give up.
To help people understand basic part of synthetic biology better, we designed our own card game. Every player must follow the order of Promoter-Transcription Factor-Enhancer/Silencer-Gene to play the card, all of which are basic components of an intact gene circuit. Once failed, the player has to draw a card from the deck until finding a matched one. Winner is the one with least card on hand when the draw pile is depleted.
Our card game was first put into use during the workshop, and it was easily accepted by high school students.
The core idea of our game was an intact gene curriculum. It was designed as simple as possible, since we hope even little children could accept the rule easily. After playing our card game for a while, those high school students put forward a few suggestions:” Rule of the card game is rather simple, and it should be acceptable even for children. However, once we get familiar, the game seems a little boring.”
As to make our card game more challenging and interesting, the content needs to get improved. We plan to tailor the content according to targeted players. Since younger students wouldn’t be capable of grasping synthetic biology beyond a surface level, current design is suitable for them. For students with better ability to understand, we should add something agrees with their capability.