Science transcends cultures in Taiwan

Jacqueline Kao, Sam P. H. Sutherland

As my co-instructor, Sam, waxes lyrical about tough gels, I survey the hall: The timidfaces of 144 of the brightest students in Taiwan look back at us, uncertain of what toexpect. It’s very different from the lively atmosphere we are accustomed to in NewZealand classrooms.

Our team has traveled 10,000 km to participate in the Madame Curie Senior HighSchool Chemistry Camp (1). I have longed to bring the science-through-play ideals ofour outreach program to the students of my home country. Many Taiwanese studentsgrow up under immense academic pressure and rarely get to experience hands-on orcarefree childhood activities. Today we intend to change that.

“It’s just for fun, so don’t worry about getting everything right. Prepare to get messy!”I repeat Sam’s words and sentiment in Mandarin, and then the students beginexperimenting with PVA/borax slime, modified using cornstarch to simulate a toughgel. Reserved smiles turn into joyous laughter as the slime stretches and dribbles offtheir fingers. The ice is broken! We move on to some “real” chemistry: measuringstretch in nano-clay composite tough gel samples. In this make-shift venue, theperceived formality of science in laboratories has been stripped away as we showcaseSam’s research.

Play first; measurements later. We elected to reverse the usual order of experimentsbecause, even more so than Kiwi kids, these students needed a fun and relaxedenvironment to facilitate engagement. Working with an understanding of their cultureand language, we were able to show them that science is everywhere, and that anyonecan do it and have fun along the way.( Science 01 Jun, 2018: Vol. 360, Issue 6392,pp. 974)

註:Otago Chemistry Outreach 團隊參與居禮夫人高中化學營實驗課程(2016),將參與心得寫成短文,投稿至Science 期刊(letter)

科學超越文化的隔閡 – 在台灣

當我的同伴,Sam,神采飛揚地描述硬凝膠體的背景與應用時。我環視了整個大廳,144 名頂尖的台灣學生安靜、不確定得凝視著我們。這與我們在紐西蘭教學時,常見的活潑、熱絡氣氛非常不同。


“這個實驗只是為了好玩,不需要在意對錯,弄得亂七八糟也無所謂“我用中文重複了Sam 興奮的邀約。然後,學生開始用PVA /硼砂,以玉米澱粉改質來製作凝膠體。當粘液從他們的指縫間溢出、滴下時,靦腆的笑容轉變成開懷大笑。破冰了!於是我們開始進行“真正”的科學課題:奈米黏土複合硬凝膠體的拉伸強度測量。當我們在權充實驗室的大廳裡從事由Sam碩士論文延伸出來的活動時,實驗室的嚴肅氣氛逐漸退去。