September 2018

Beijing Science Festival

During the last few days I was invited to take part in the Fifth Beijing Science Festival (BJSF) that took place at the Beijing Olympic Stadium. It was my first time to participate in such a big and so well organized event that aims at engaging children and the general population in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The view of the Bird’s Nest and the Cube at the Beijing Olympic Stadium (by Marina Milner-Bolotin)

Today I flew back from Beijing and I had a moment to reflect on my very brief, overwhelming, but also very powerful experience. During my visit I was able to see and be a part of the science outreach event on a grand scale that I have never experienced before.

It is hard if not impossible to describe the magnitude of the BJSF without experiencing it.┬áIt is about 800 times bigger than our UBC Family Math and Science Day, it is free and open to anybody in Beijing or outside of it. So many families come to participate over the weekend – I saw parents, grandparents, entire families, as well as young couples who I suppose decided to have a date there. During the week, many school students came with their teachers. I could see groups of kids in uniforms running around and enjoying the day.

On Monday, many schools took their students to the Science Festival – these students are from the same school as they wear the school’s uniform.

In addition, many secondary students volunteered during the event and it looked like they enjoyed it as well. They also had an opportunity to speak a little English with us. Hundreds of companies, educational institutions, and governmental agencies took part in this event. The government of China allocates funds for inviting science educators from other countries (that is how we could come), so the exchange of ideas not only inside China, but also on the larger international level is a very big part of it.

As I mentioned earlier, it takes place at the Beijing Olympic Stadium, so the venue is huge, well known, and has many attractions in addition to the BJSF – museums, etc. The BJSF has about 250,000-300,000 visitors during the four days of the festival (this is about 1/3 of the population of Vancouver).

I represented UBC and Canada as every country was invited to have one booth of science activities to inspire young people. The booth of science experiments I brought with me was very popular and the organizers already invited me to come again next year. I think we are doing a very good job with the science outreach here, as the stream of visitors to my booth was always very high. Considering that this is the biggest science festival in China, it is very exciting to know that we were represented (together with the US, many European, Asian and African countries).

While I am a little bit overwhelmed and tired now, I am proud to be able to represent Canada and UBC and make us known for our science outreach. I also met many amazing STEM educators from all around the world. So I hope this will open new collaborative opportunities. All in all, it was a great opportunity and a big inspiration. I hope we will go there next year as well.

Science and curiosity allow you to communicate with people even if we do not speak each other’s language…

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