Italian teacher sparks rural students' interests in biology

Lorenzo Pecoraro cannot wait to start lessons online with students more than 1,000km away after he visited them in an impoverished county in Gansu Province twice this year.

Lorenzo Pecoraro, an Italian teacher based in China for years, cannot wait to start lessons online with students more than 1,000 kilometers away after he visited them in an impoverished county in northwest China's Gansu Province twice this year.

He has made certificates with encouraging messages for each of the students on grading their assignments and sent them to the students after he returned to north China's Tianjin Municipality where he works.

Lorenzo, 45, who hails from Rome in Italy, said he has been interested in teaching biology to children back in Italy since college.

After he moved to China to do teaching at the School of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology with Tianjin University in 2018, Lorenzo has been eager to make a difference for the young students in impoverished areas.

"It is difficult for children in poor villages to acquire thorough knowledge or receive higher education. I would like to make my contribution to sparking the students' interests in biology," Lorenzo said, adding that he has been an active member of the university's relative project.

As part of the efforts to introduce higher education resources to remote and poor rural areas, Tianjin University has been working with Tanchang County, Gansu Province, to help improve local education.

In his first three-day visit to Tanchang County in June, he delivered a lecture on the nutritional value of fungi and discussed ecological conservation and environmental protection with students.

Lorenzo also visited a mushroom farm and a noodle factory sponsored by the local government. "I tried to know this place as more as I can so that I could teach the children in a way that is more acceptable," he said.

As soon as he came back to Tianjin, Lorenzo immediately prepared for his second visit. "I could not wait to go back there," said Lorenzo. He visited the place again from Aug. 1-7.

Tanchang County is rich in medicinal mushrooms, so he invited the students to visit a local mushroom cultivation base to collect samples, and observe fungi under a microscope to help them know more about biology and the local economy.

He also designed activities such as drawing and painting, collecting, and observing the plants and animals in parks, building nests for birds, to drum up their interests.

"The children exhibit their self-made plant specimens in the classroom and I can sense a sense of pride among them," Lorenzo said.

Liu Mingcai, a student, wrote in a letter to Lorenzo that "you encouraged us to learn about nature, explore nature, and protect nature, which left me a very precious and unforgettable memory."

"Their enthusiasm to learn and explore new things, as well as their positive attitude, will be significant for the future development of their hometown," Lorenzo said.

Lorenzo opened a WeChat group with the students and often shared his work and life in Tianjin. "They are very interested in the campus life of Tianjin University and my scientific work in the laboratory," he said, adding that he was delighted to see more students from rural areas have more access to higher education.

Lorenzo also shared his experience with other foreign professors at Tianjin University. "They have also expressed great interest in the project," Lorenzo said. "I would certainly go back to Tanchang County soon."

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