Encouraging a scientific reaction

2019-03-13 07:58:11 China Daily

Liang Yan's interactive learning aids help children and teachers, both inside and outside of the classroom.

At the age of 10, Liang Yan captured a snail. He still remembers how excited he was when he observed the snail's antennae up close for the first time.

Now, as the founder of Beauty of Science, an educational brand launched in 2015 by his company, Anhui Xinzhi Digital Media Information Technology, Liang is showing a video of a snail eating green vegetables under a microscope at an elementary school science lecture, hoping that an interest in science can be inspired in the young students by the little creature.

The company's aim is to provide science education materials for teenagers, as well as to also promote scientific culture by combining science with art, leading children to find the beauty of science.

"The students laugh each time I show this video-they are so happy that they can even clearly see the teeth of the snail," says Liang. "I hope I can pass on my passion for science to the kids, and encourage them to go outside more and to explore nature."

In 2017, the Ministry of Education launched a compulsory standard for elementary school science courses, stating that science teaching starts from the first grade.

Liang's team developed a product that is a supplement to the science textbooks with coursework, resources and teaching aids that follow the standard.

"Science has become a compulsory course in elementary schools now, which means the government is paying more and more attention to scientific innovation. Therefore, it's important to teach the children correctly, as it's their first chance to learn about the sciences," he says.

On the other hand, Liang says, the number of science teachers working in elementary schools is not enough, noting that some of them are only part-time, so "we want to help them with more teaching materials and a way to focus on how to make science more interesting".

They have just launched a range of supporting teaching materials for Grades 1 to 6, with a dozen interactive multimedia resources, including macro-observation, infrared viewing and virtual reality visualization.

A teaching platform is set to go online this year, which will help students learn with their textbooks at the same time, while the teachers can use resources on the platform for classroom activities.

"We also prepare a PowerPoint presentation for each lesson for the teachers to download, and they can use it directly or change it to fit their preference," Liang says.

As of January, more than 2,700 teachers nationwide had registered on the platform, which is totally free of charge for teachers in remote regions, he says.

Fascinated by all kinds of chemistry experiments, Liang studied chemistry at Tsinghua University for his bachelor's and master's degrees, and then obtained a doctorate in materials science from the University of Minnesota in 2011.

Liang is also an associate professor at the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Science and Technology of China, focusing on science communication and science policy. Moreover, he takes part in writing textbooks related to physical science.

Liang imports science videos from British education company, Twig Education, which help children to experience everything from the ocean to outer space in class.

Liang's team also makes cartoon films to help students better understand science. Two figures, elder brother Keke (meaning science) and younger sister Meimei (meaning beauty) tell stories in the cartoon that explain complicated scientific principles in an easy-to-understand way.

Liang also makes a series of videos titled Doctor Liang Talks About Science to encourage children to explore the beauty of science. His videos include topics such as the secret of peacock feathers and how the octopus distinguishes color, despite being colorblind.

After obtaining his PhD in 2011, he worked for Digizyme, co-founded by Gael McGill, director of Molecular Visualization at Harvard Medical School, a company that creates visual contexts for science popularization.

He realized the importance of science visualization and came back to China in 2012 and helped to create visual representations of scientific research results before finally launching the Beauty of Science project.

"Science is beautiful, and science education should be akin to teaching children art. It is not all about filling in blanks or long equations. It's about discovering the 'beauty of science'," he says.



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