The significance of science contains not only experiments, but also communications with the whole society, conveying that we should keep pace with potential participants and other iGEM teams to disseminate our programme and gain more ideas. Thus, we started an all age group communication, ranging from kindergarten to the old, with a wide spread checklists improvment acctivity: QUICK(Questionnaires Used In Clear Knowledge).
Figure 1 | Mindmap of Science Communication in SMS_Shenzhen 2021.
All-Age Group Communication
When SMS began to consider which age groups we should focus on, we argued for a long time. Eventually, we came up with an ambitious idea: we should communicate our programme with the whole society, which means that we decided to do an all age group Science Communication to get complete feedback for our programme and purpose of programme.
Kindergarten and Primary School
To begin with, SMS deem that children play a vital part in society, for they are learning good behaviours and their future can be unlimited. Proper solutions to used gum and some gum's background are easy but essential for them to study, and we encourage them to come up with more magical or practical methods to deal with the gum, helping them to learn more and think more about the gum.
As a result, we delivered a class for kindergarten children in which we introduced the common senses of chewing gum, including when and where it was invented and how to dispose chewed gum correctly. To ensure the results of the class, we also designed a checklist for them.
After deciding to give a class to kindergarten and primary school children about chewing gum, we determined to focus on guiding them to handle chewing gum correctly, which is easy but important. Also, in order to make the class more lively and interesting, we use a special identity - gum, to teach the class. Furthermore, we added an interactive game based on the Woodman game in the class arrangement, requiring them to judge whether children in PPT process chewing gum correctly, which helps them remember the correct way to handle chewing gum. In addition, in order to investigate the effect of our lecture, we designed a suitable checklist with some simple choice questions and space for them to draw. As for making the PPT, we looked up some PPTs made by kindergarten teachers on the Internet first to understand which kind of PPT is suitable for children. Through research, we have added many child-oriented languages and images to the PPT, checklist and our lecture.
Figure 2-4 | Online lessons for kindergarten and primary school children.
What we gain
When the lecture for children has been done, we are more confident about the significance of this activity, because if they were taught about environmental knowledge and how to handle chewing gum properly from an early age, they are more likely to become an environmental person when they grow up. In addition, through the collection of checklist, we can find that the activity works well because most of the children have known how to handle chewing gum properly and have established a right environmental awareness. Here are some representative checklists from children.
Then, SMS paid attention to the students around us.
As iGEMers, we are highly aware of the importance of transmission and communication of the knowledge of Synthetic Biology. Since many senior students in Shenzhen Middle School may be interested in the field of Synthetic Biology and hope to construct their own project, we constructed a series of Synthetic Biology courses with the aim of providing them with basic knowledge of Biology as well as finding the future iGEMers.
The First Class
In the first class, we presented an overview lecture about Synthetic Biology. During the lecture, we introduced its history, some basic ideas about biological parts, and what we could do about these parts. After the lecture, we were delighted to notice that most students were fascinated by what we presented and that they were eager to learn more.
The Second Class
We presented our second class next week. Over 50 minutes, we explained some biochemical knowledge like ion bonds and the molecule structure of DNA and amino acids, which set foundations for our subsequent lecture centering on the central dogma. The students asked a lot of questions about the content after the class, and we answered each of the questions. We encouraged effective communication, that is, to ask questions once they were confused, so that they could truly acquire the knowledge and utilize it in practice.
The Third Class
The third class was about central dogma. We briefly explained how genetic information flowed to make a functional product protein. We also introduced the concept of biological parts. Students kept active during the whole lecture, raising questions wherever they felt confused. We got positive feedback from our students.
The Forth Class
After that, we introduced several excellent projects of previous iGEMers. We hoped that our introduction may arouse their interest in creating their own Synthetic Biology project and taking part in iGEM competition. The feedback was quite promising. After the class, they asked more about the details of competition, including what to do in laboratory, how to conceive an excellent idea, and how to sign up for the competition. We were happy to see that they were fascinated with synthetic biology.
Figure 12-15 are images of our lessons for high school students.
What We Gain
After one month of teaching, we asked the students to draw an iGEM project blueprint using what they had learned. We were delighted to notice that they were inspired by us, applying the idea of synthetic biology to various circumstances like medical treatment and algal boom prevention.
Figure 16 | Representative works from high school students.
We also did a survey among the students. The survey on the left was a sample survey conducted before the whole lecture while the right one was conducted afterwards. The results all indicated that they learned more about this area, and were hoping to dig further. They were also more willing to follow our project and to provide suggestions on it.
Figure 17 | Representative Online feedback from high school students. The left one is before our education and the right one is after our education.
The Mid-Age and the Old
To help the middle-aged and elderly adapt to and learn biology and medical knowledge in the 21st century, we have carried out various promotions and publicity in different ways and carried out in-depth communication with the audience of our activities and made improvements. First up, we've compiled a list of standard synthetic biology, biology and medical myths on various social media platforms. And sort out the truth about those rumours. Secondly, we communicated with the elderly and collected their suggestions for us. We printed a batch of brochures to prevent rumours and basic knowledge of synthetic biology in the 21st century, composed and written by us, and distributed to nursing homes and communities to collect opinions.
We hope to help more seniors keep up with technology in the 21st century when information is sophisticated. To prevent them from being deceived by online rumours and dishonest marketing accounts, we found that the elderly lacked biological knowledge during the COVID-19 outbreak, which led to their inability to smoothly receive new things and keep pace with the development of synthetic biology, which further led to the inconvenience of life for the elderly during the epidemic. We hope to help the elderly by providing them with essential and basic knowledge of biology and medicine. In addition, we hope that we can have more contact with the elderly and genuinely understand their troubles and situations through this activity. We also hope that by making middle-aged people aware of the plight and difficulties of the elderly, they can help protect them from online rumours. We are appealing the society to take this seriously.
What We've Done
Rumor Prevention Article
We have collected nearly 50 widely circulated prejudices and rumours related to synthetic biology, mainly divided into four parts: local methods, food rumours, life rumours, and medical and health rumours. Through extensive collection and sorting, we analyzed and elaborated the corresponding truth behind each word and the loopholes of each rumour. We sorted out rumours about whether all genetically modified foods cause cancer, whether genetic testing programs test as much as possible, and whether eating walnuts can help with intellectual development. We then posted the integration on multiple social media platforms and opened up the comment section. Considering that the seniors might not frequently use social media, we asked the readers to show this to their grandparents and parents and ask for their reflection. In the comments section, we received a lot of reader comments, "After reading your refutation towards rumours, I suddenly realized that I had been thinking in a wrong way for so many years!", "I think the rise of the Internet and we media has promoted the spread and dissemination of online rumours, and your project has indeed helped us."
Figure 18 | Representative articles eliminating rumors about health.
Handbook on How to Avoid Rumors
After receiving suggestions from the public in the comments on social media, we compiled our list of the most valuable ways to avoid rumours in the 21st century and added basic synthetic biology knowledge to the new edition of the campaign. Considering that the elderly mostly keep the habit of reading newspapers and other paper publications, we printed the rumours, principles, methods and superficial knowledge of biology into a booklet. Considering the needs of the particular group of the elderly, we used bright and noticeable colours and large fonts. The pamphlet was distributed to nursing homes and senior communities, and our team members participated in the pamphlet distribution and asked for suggestions and opinions on the booklet. The seniors in the nursing homes and communities are all satisfied with the brochure, but we also received a lot of constructive suggestions, such as a granny, points out that the spread of rumours by regional, for example, in southern China are mostly edible soybean oil, while the north is the peanut oil is given priority to, so whether the genetically modified soybean carcinogenic rumours will only spread in the north of China region and in the south almost none.
Figure 19-21 | Sample handbooks that we give out in our lectures and a picture of the audience reading our handbooks.
After finishing the activities, such as Kindergarten teaching, high school teaching and the mid-age and the old activity, we considered that we need to do something common to help everyone with the knowledge related to synthetic biology. We came up with, thus, the broadcast events.
With the rapid development of science and technology, our team realized that the form of broadcast may become a good channel for dissemination and exchange of knowledge. By playing broadcast, people can learn synthetic biology in fragment time. Therefore, we have created an introductory broadcast on synthetic biology, providing people who are busy studying with basic knowledge of synthetic biology. We put this on famous platforms such as Bilibili and WeChat.
This series of broadcasts aim to provide a basic understanding to the audience about synthetic biology. In order to achieve this goal better, we found the iGEM team of Yucai Middle School, co-wrote the scripts with them, and dubbed the broadcast. In this process, we organized many meetings about revising the draft, kept in touch with each other by online media, and finally we got to know each other deeply through this program. The broadcast we produced is a detailed and interesting introduction to the basics of synthetic biology, taking gene sequencing, genome synthesis and the birth of artificial cells as the main thread.
A few days after we uploaded the audio, we were delighted to find that many listeners left comments encouraging and supporting our audio; in comments, viewers also mentioned their expectations for a broadcast about synthetic biology. Some listeners even asked if they could join us in recording more interesting biology textbooks. Another fan sent a message to our account. He said the episode about the birth of artificial cells in the broadcast changed his impression of biology, so he will try AP biology in his new semester classes. We are particularly delighted to have generated interest in synthetic biology.
Here are some words of encouragement and support from viewers:
Figure 23 | encouragement from online audiences.
Questionnaires Used In Clear Knowledge
When all the teams in iGEM were preparing their programme, mountains of questionnaires showed up online and offline in SMS_Shenzheners' lives. We discovered that there were a lot of problems in those questionnaires that could be corrected. After a few discussions, SMS_Shenzhen decided to set up a team specializing in questionnaires' improvement, offering guide and help to all the iGEMers to make their programme better.
We collected plenty of questionnaires, to begin with, in our life, and read them one by one to summarise several common problems. After an argument with all the members, composed of supervisors, students and teachers in SMS_Shenzhen, we produced a checklist for all normal questionnaires.
Figure 24 | The checklist for making a good and effective questionnare.
To help the teams around us more, SMS_Shenzhen posted an article composed of specific examples of the problems and corresponding corrections in Chinese.
Figure 25-27 | Our online articles stating how to make an effective questionnaire, and some common problems discroverd based on our research.
After all the preparation was done, SMS_Shenzhen still desired to help iGEMers more; therefore, we decided to communicate with some teams, making their questionnaires more readable and have a closer relationship with their programmes.
Firstly, we gave some suggestions about their questionnaires directly in a wechat group to SHSBNU_China, adding some points that they had not come up with. [More details of process are provided in the following pictures.
Figure 28-29 |
Moreover, we talked with our partner team, GreatBay_SCIE, about our ideas. After talking, they sent a manuscript of their questionnaire to us immediately. We pointed out a lot of places needed changes and had a conversation about some special questions' alternation.
Figure 30-31 |
In the following days, we kept helping iGEM teams, such as Yucai_SZ and SZU-China, with their questionnaires by using our professional and systematic knowledge.
Figure 32-33 |
Figure 28-33 | Examples of how we helped the other igem teams refined their questionnaires.
It's an honor for us to offer assistance to so many teams in iGEM; more importantly, we had learnt a lot during the period correcting the questionnaires and discussing problems with them. All of us built a good relationship through this collaboration. Eventually, we are all sure that we will keep doing this even when we finish the competition.
If you are interested in the educational resources we have mentioned above or you want to use them in your courses, please contact us at email@example.com. We are happy to offer our powerpoints and other documents to you.
Venter, J. C. (2014). Life at the speed of light: From the double helix to the dawn of Digital Life. Abacus.