- Human Pratices
Science literacy education for children is of great importance to promoting inclusiveness in the scientific community, especially in the context of COVID-19. Science education for children, especially health education, is of great importance and value. According to UNESCO's "Education in a post-COVID world: Nine ideas for public action" released in 2020, "Ensure scientific literacy within the curriculum. This is the right time for deep reflection on curriculum, particularly as we struggle against the denial of scientific knowledge and actively fight misinformation." Scientific literacy education for children should be strengthened in the post-pandemic era.
Therefore, in order to help balance science education for children in developed and less developed regions, provide educational opportunities to promote their all-around development and demonstrate the inclusiveness of the scientific community. We focus on science literacy education.
In this year's iGEM project, we learned that IBD is a chronic intestinal disease with a high incidence in western countries. However, many developing countries and newly industrialized countries are gradually entering a stage of rapid increase in the incidence of IBD, possibly due to the process of rapid industrialization. Considering that IBD tends to occur in young and middle-aged people, and the cognitive level in the population is low. Therefore, we believe that actively promoting intestinal health knowledge to children can help them develop better scientific literacy. It can effectively improve the overall educational level of the population in the region in the future, so as to feedback on the scientific and educational undertakings in the region and achieve the purpose of science and technology driving economic development.
In order to make our vision come true, we carried out a series of activities. The early childhood period is a critical period for healthy personality and intellectual development and for health education. Moreover, compared with adults, children have poor intestinal barrier function and are often prone to digestive diseases. Data shows that over 38% of children are affected by intestinal problems. Indigestion, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and constipation are common problems for children. For this reason, children's intestinal health education activities have become an indispensable part of our practical activities.
This summer, we went to two remote towns in Guangdong, China-Chaozhou and Shantou, and brought two educational activities for children in the countryside. We mainly educate children on gut health through three parts. In the first part, we tell children the importance of washing hands before and after meals in the form of storytelling and teach the seven-step hand-washing method, a scientific hand-washing step. In the second part, we divided the children into groups of 6 and conducted a team-made intestinal flora puzzle competition. The children were in high spirits and cooperated to complete the puzzle. Finally, under our guidance, they learned about the concepts of bacteria and viruses and learned the existence and significance of different flora in the intestine. In the third part, we took out our self-made intestinal health picture book to share with children and explained to them how to prevent common digestive system diseases. In rapturous discussion and applause, we ended the course happily.
Fig. 1 ABCD Pictures of educational activities
Our materials are also designed according to the cognitive characteristics of preschool and school-age children, and children love the lively and cute style. They treasured these little gifts and said they would take them home to show their parents. We will also print our official account QR code stickers for children, hoping to guide their parents to pay attention to our official account and get in touch with more information about us.
In the jigsaw puzzle part, we plan to use it to educate children in kindergarten and primary school. We hope to pass on some relevant scientific knowledge to them through entertaining and teaching. Considering the limited acceptance of children, we adopted two contents in the design of the puzzle, one of which was to identify bacteria and viruses, and the other was to explore the intestinal tract. In the actual process of children's education, we combined the specific content of the two puzzles for a series of explanations.
Fig. 2A Puzzle Figure; 2B Puzzle original picture
In the card sleeve part, we plan to use it to educate older teenagers. In the design of the card sleeve, we apply some more abstract and design elements to encourage teenagers to bravely explore the unknown world and discover the truth of the world.
Fig. 3 AB Card sleeve
In the badge part, we focus on using some comic means to show the principles of molecular biology and related experimental operations, such as DNA transcription and translation, agarose gel electrophoresis, PCR, etc. We hope to arouse young people's curiosity and interest by animating this relatively "hardcore" science content.
Fig. 4 AB Badge
We think that key chains are a very good way to spread knowledge among teenagers, and a good key chain can spread quickly among their peer groups. Therefore, we decided to anthropomorphize the core of our project, the intestinal flora, especially probiotics, and express them concretely in the form of animation. We hope that these probiotics will give children fond memories of their childhood and that they will grow up to realize that this was part of their scientific enlightenment.
Fig. 5 Key chain
In order to facilitate our educational activities, we designed and produced a picture book of intestinal health based on the knowledge of human intestinal health and intestinal flora. We hope to apply our picture books to children in junior middle school and below, so as to cultivate their scientific literacy, develop the habit and ability of logical thinking under our guidance.
Fig. 6A Picture book
Fig. 6B Picture book used in education activities
In order to broaden our inclusion to a more mature group of teenagers, we have carried out a series of discussions and planning on our educational content carrier. Finally, we decided to spread scientific knowledge in the form of card/board games and mobile games, which are popular among young people.
We designed an IntestiNO card based on the popular UNO card game. We classified the color of the cards according to the probiotics, harmful bacteria and opportunistic bacteria in the gut flora. Functional cards were defined as behaviors that could affect the balance of intestinal flora or the health of the gut. To bring scientific knowledge to target groups in the form of high acceptance and dissemination, so as to reflect iGEM's strong inclusiveness of science.
Fig. 7 ABCDE Parts of IntestiNO
In fact, in order to make parents' education of their children also play an effective role in our project and achieve the effect of indirect education, we also designed a mobile game of Great Protein according to the core principles and processes of synthetic biology. The game mechanics of Great Protein are inspired by the popular Chinese mobile game "Synthesizing large Watermelon", which requires you to combine several small components such as promoters, plasmids, gene pathways and transcription units into one, gradually synthesizing the final protein. We believe that this game mechanic is an excellent example to show how scientists rely on the central dogma, from genetic elements to the production of proteins, to create life, so as to popular synthetic biology. Therefore we think that it has great potential to be a powerful tool for disseminating iGEM in the future.
Fig. 8 A GreatProtein instructions;B GreatProtein game interface;C GreatProtein game over interface.
As iGEMer, we know how comprehensive and complex the content of THE iGEM competition is. Hence, it is crucial to attract people from different fields, including engineering, art, arts and so on, to participate in this carnival of synthetic biology. In most cases, however, they are put off by the complexity and expertise of synthetic biology that is unfamiliar to them. So this year, we are aware of that, and we want to set the bar lower for iGEM. By creating a series of competition and project guides for emerging iGEMers, especially those Major in non-biological or related fields, we hope to introduce more fresh blood to this fascinating and exciting event.
Therefore, in addition to making a series of exquisite materials and related activities for children to let more people know the charm of synthetic biology and spread the idea of synthetic biology, in this year's competition, we collaborate with six other teams and provide a pioneering standardized solution -- "Gastrointestinal Program Reference Manual" for iGEM team/scientific group. This Reference agreement is based on the possible problems encountered in intestinal projects as well as many common problems found during our project promotion. These questions more or less plague teams involved in the intestinal field.
In this manual, we have selected eight modules as main contents, including strain selection, quorum sensing, intestinal colonization, biosafety, hardware, instruments, and bioinformatics. Each module summarizes the critical role of this part in the whole project on the basis of sorting and screening the previous iGEM project parts. We did not judge the content. In our opinion, there are only standard methods that are more suitable, but there is no best method.
The significance of the Reference Manual is not only a groundbreaking summary of previous efforts and explorations for the above modules, but also a valuable tool manual for future teams and other scientific groups that want to enter the intestinal field. Each of these sub-parts can be used independently, randomly selected and matched for different purposes and requirements. Experimental design ideas and evidence, as well as the link of components, are included in the book, so future generations can improve and innovate on this basis. (For details, please have a look at Contribution).
Although the birth of the first edition of the Reference Manual has experienced many difficulties and challenges, there are still many deficiencies. We know that as iGEMer, we are still not enough to check and understand the manual's contents deeply. For this reason, we hope that the manual will continue to be updated and updated, and that all versions of the manual will be completely free and available to the public. We want to thank the other six teams for their extraordinary contributions. We hope that the ideas and awareness of synthetic biology will play a more significant role in both scientific and non-scientific circles.
Fig. 9 Reference manual cover
 Education in a post-COVID world: Nine ideas for public action. (2020). Retrieved 4 October 2021, from https://en.unesco.org/news/education-post-covid-world-nine-ideas-public-action
 Kaplan, G.G., Windsor, J.W. The four epidemiological stages in the global evolution of inflammatory bowel disease. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 18, 56–66 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41575-020-00360-x