Early childhood education
To further expand our engagement and disseminate our iGEM project to a wider audience, while also fostering increased participation in environmental initiatives and enhancing public awareness and environmental skills, we have organized a series of educational lectures and workshops tailored for kindergarten and primary school students. Simultaneously, we are committed to developing workshops for middle and high school students as well.

Early childhood education plays a pivotal role in knowledge acquisition, with environmental education representing a crucial facet of scientific enlightenment. It is integral to achieving quality education for young learners in the modern era. Kindergarten children, in particular, are at a critical stage in shaping their values. What they absorb during this phase can have a lasting impact on their worldviews and may influence their parents’ behaviors as well. Therefore, instilling an understanding of the significance of water resources early on and garnering support for their protection is of utmost importance.

To champion this cause, our educational lectures have been meticulously crafted and successfully implemented at The Kindergarten of Hohai University and Nanjing Boyuan Zhongmou Kindergarten. Our lectures aim to seamlessly integrate environmental education into children’s daily activities, spanning teaching, daily life, and exploration. Our ultimate objective is to instill environmental awareness as a driving force for learning and inspire children to explore the realm of synthetic biology through practical examples like sewage testing. By establishing a tangible connection between classroom environmental knowledge and its real-world applications, we seek to foster a deep-rooted environmental consciousness that propels both learning and meaningful action.

Image 1Pilot Environmental Education Day at the Kindergarten of Hohai University

Image 2 Pilot Environmental Education Day at Nanjing Boyuan Zhongmou Kindergarten

We have also established an on-campus IGEM Club and a Girls in STEM Club (dedicated to promoting STEM education for females, achieving educational equality). Through them, we have connected with other schools in Nanjing. We understand that although middle schools and above offer biology-related courses, kindergarten children have not developed environmental awareness and an interest in biology from an early age. Therefore, we have decided to provide children with relevant biological knowledge through a series of lectures, while also promoting our cadmium pollution detection project and the IGEM competition.
Once these lectures are refined, we will offer them to educators across Jiangsu Province. We hope to achieve the goal of environmental education through communication and education, even if we are not physically present, by sending them a link file containing all the components we have created, as well as organizing online and offline activities for exchange and education. This package includes multiple components, described as follows:
Project Manual: The education manual provides a brief overview of our project and introduces iGEM, along with the concept of "iGEM is about local people solving local problems everywhere in the world." If students are interested in our project and would like to know more information, they can contact us at any time.


Image 3 &4 :The cover and some interior pages of our Project Manual

Image 5: Kerui BAO is distributing Project Manuals to the kindergarten students.

Image 6: Haotian YIN is explaining the content of Project Manuals to the kids.
Lecture slides: the purpose of the lecture slides is to introduce synthetic biology and the IGEM competition, as well as to explain the detection of cadmium effluent and its effects. Next, we explain the solution to the problem and present our results. In addition, an animated presentation was demonstrated showing future directions.

Image 7: Kerui BAO is giving the environmental protection lecture at a kindergarten.
Q&A Session: After the lecture, the children will go on to answer three simple questions to test their understanding of the relationship between animation and cadmium effluent and synthetic biology.

Image 8: Q&A Session 1 (Questioner: Kerui BAO)

Image 9: Q&A Session 1 (Questioner: Kexin LI)
 During the discussion session, each child in the room was encouraged to stand up and tell us how he or she felt about participating in the event and what impressed them the most. Many children said that it was the first time they had heard of ‘cadmium’ and that it was the first time they knew that dangerous heavy metal ions could be present in water. Some children said that they would go home and advise their parents to learn more about the subject and to test their drinking water for excessive cadmium.

Image 10: Kindergarten teacher are conducting intermediate crosstalk
 Next, our teaching is divided into three parts. The first part aims to make children aware of the scarcity of water resources. Firstly, there is an engaging drawing activity. We divide the children into groups of four, and each group has ten minutes to explain to us the scenarios they think require water on a daily basis, as well as the significance of water for life, using props if necessary. When they realize that besides direct consumption, water is also needed for growing the vegetables they eat, they become aware of the limited availability of water, and they begin to cherish every drop.
The second part aims to educate children about the harm of cadmium-contaminated water to the aquatic environment. The first activity involves playing an animation. In the animation, we demonstrate the extensive harm caused by cadmium-contaminated water and the challenges in detecting it in real-world scenarios. After the animation, we randomly select three children to roughly sketch their ideal representation of nature on the blackboard. Based on their simple drawings, we encourage the children to pay more attention to water pollution in their daily lives, and to promptly report any instances of pollution to their parents or teachers. The second activity involves imparting knowledge about chemistry and biology.

Image 11: Children are building chemical molecular formulas.
The third part is a discussion session, where we encourage every child present to stand up and share their feelings about participating in this activity, as well as highlight the most memorable points for them. Many children mentioned that it was their first time hearing about ‘cadmium‘ as a metal, and also their first time learning that dangerous heavy metal ions can be present in water. Some children mentioned that they would go home and suggest to their parents to learn more about this topic and check if there is an excess of cadmium in their drinking water.

Image 12: A brave child is standing up to answer a question.


Image 13: A group photo with the children from the Kindergarten of Hohai University.
After the activity, our team members distributed Project Manuals to the children for them to study together with their parents. We also held a debriefing session with the kindergarten teachers to review the effectiveness of the activity. We collected feedback, opinions, and suggestions regarding the environmental education lecture and activity, which will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of our educational plan and understand how to improve it. For instance, the teachers suggested that we can simplify the animation into a more understandable format, preferably an interactive one. We listened to their advice and plan to create an interactive version of the animation in the future to enhance children's engagement. Additionally, we realized that our explanations of the principles were too formal, so we will further adapt the explanations in the educational materials to be understandable for pre-school children, and we will optimize the design of future environmental protection-related activities for young children in a structured and organized manner.

Youth Engagement in iGEM: Fostering the Future of Synthetic Biology
In recent years, the influence of iGEM has been on the rise. Students are showing a growing interest in becoming part of our iGEM community. To nurture and expand this community with new members, we’ve launched an on-campus iGEM club. The primary goal of this club is to champion the ideals of the iGEM community and synthetic biology. This includes covering essential knowledge, prerequisites, practical applications, and future prospects in these fields.

Image 14: Student Leader,ZHANG Xiaoyu,is giving an introduction about iGEM.
We introduced our project from various aspects, particularly focusing on the current progress and challenges in pollution detection and control to avoid misunderstandings. We discussed adapters, combining relevant knowledge about proteins, and a toe switch detection method based on a cell-free expression system. The students showed great interest.


Public Education Activities
 In addition to promoting our project to children and teenagers, we have also designed public education activities aimed at the general population. Public education activities are divided into two parts: online and offline.
In the offline component, members of our team took to the streets and campus, holding promotional materials and signs, as well as conducting surveys to raise awareness about the dangers of cadmium-contaminated water. This experience deepened our understanding of the importance of environmental protection, especially regarding the issue of heavy metal pollution such as cadmium. We created banners and promotional posters and placed them on sidewalks along major roads in Nanjing. We also distributed pamphlets to passersby, drawing their attention to the seriousness of cadmium pollution and educating them about the scarcity of water resources and the hazards of cadmium contamination.

Image 15  Promotional posters

Image 16  A group photo of some team members with the poster
Compared to teaching children, public education aimed at the general population is more challenging to be accepted. We faced numerous rejections but also managed to capture the attention of many people. In the end, we distributed over 200 project manuals.

Image 17: Programme promotion outreach
One of our team members wrote:
"During the process of street promotion, I saw a variety of people – some hurriedly passed by, some stopped to inquire, and others expressed genuine concern. This made us realize the importance of educating and spreading environmental information. Without this awareness campaign, the issue of cadmium-contaminated water might not be well-known to most people. However, once they understand the severity of the problem, they might take action to reduce cadmium pollution.
In our promotional activities, we encountered challenges. Some questioned our stance, while others doubted the information we presented. This only strengthened our resolve to stand firm in our beliefs. We know we are doing the right thing, for the future of our planet and our own health.

This experience made us realize that young people can play an active role in environmental movements. Despite being young, we possess the power to change the world. We hope more young people join us in contributing to the cause of environmental protection. We also urge governments and businesses to take more measures to reduce cadmium pollution, ensuring the safety of our water sources and food."


Image 17: Programme promotion outreach

In summary, this street promotion campaign has deepened our understanding of the urgency and importance of environmental protection. We will continue our efforts to raise environmental awareness and work towards creating a cleaner and healthier world. Every action can bring about positive change, and we believe that through collective efforts, we can make a small but valuable contribution to the future of the planet.
In the online segment, we created a TikTok account and included the account's QR code and contact information QR code in the promotional brochures distributed offline and posted on posters. We asked our senior students and parents to follow and share our account, hoping that through our promotion, the audience could feel the relevance of protecting water resources, preventing cadmium pollution in their daily lives, participate more in cadmium pollution control, and experience the charm of science. After chatting privately with a few fans, we found that many people following our account are young and expressed a strong interest in biotechnology and heavy metal detection in such a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. They are willing to delve deeper into understanding and exploring these topics.

These public education activities have broad social significance and value. We hope that through innovative technology and methods, we can contribute to environmental protection and achieve sustainable development. Let's work together to create a better world for the future!

Interview: Learn the attitude of government officials towards water pollution caused by heavy metals and water resource protection.

Image 18 The interview scene of Kerui BAO and Haotian YIN.
Hai BAO is a government official from the Water Resources Department of Jiangsu Province. As a technical expert in water resource protection and sewage control, he has published academic papers on topics related to flood control, pollution prevention, and resource management in various journals and forums. He possesses several years of technical and managerial experience.
Mr. Bao provided the following answers to several questions posed by the two students during their interview for this project. These questions included the importance of detecting and managing water pollution, China's regulations regarding cadmium levels in water, an introduction to relevant legal standards for cadmium pollution, methods for detecting cadmium levels in water, current challenges in cadmium level detection, and future plans for sewage prevention and prediction. He also encouraged the students to apply their research findings and future goals in promoting education and outreach to a wider audience, working towards the goal of "returning a green Earth."

 We also sought advice from the 2022 iGEMers, who are our seniors from Huazhong University of Science and Technology. We exchanged information about our respective projects and progress. Our seniors also motivated us to improve our educational materials and encouraged us to contribute together to environmental protection and sustainable development.