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Retired academics make tours to promote science
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More than 30 senior academics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other institutions of higher learning have gained popularity for the science tours they have made for 10 years to an estimated audience of 1.3 million people, the China Youth Daily reported on Monday.

The group of lecturers selected from hundreds of registered candidates are mainly composed of retired academics and professors, according to Zhong Qi, who heads the group.

He said that an under-qualified speaker would stifle children's curiosity in science. For 10 years, the group had stuck to a strict selection procedure and a small percentage of recruitment.

"Popular science is not a replica of science and hi-tech, but the reproduction that requires know-how and expertise," Zhong said.

Xu Bangnian, a former Major General in the country's Air Force Command College, said he had to pass four test teachings before becoming a speaker.

Sun Wanru, the group's deputy head, said the tours were warmly received as the group had been updating its content. It explored new ways to ignite children's curiosity and interest by providing them with fun, entertaining and educational life stories of well-known scientists and frontier research results.

"We feel the responsibility to spark the imagination and interest of children who listen to our talks," he said, adding that it usually took two or three years for the speakers to develop a theme and become fully prepared.

So far, the academics have toured 246 cities and counties around the country and given more than 3,500 popular science speeches since its 1997 establishment.

"(The speech) is my best extra-curricular activity ever," a little girl in northwestern China told the newspaper.

(Xinhua News Agency January 8, 2008)


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