Salute to Shanghai's budding scientists

Jun 8, 2018

Children in Shanghai are embracing science and creativity as the government promotes public innovation. Youngsters are also being encouraged to think beyond their textbooks and work on their own creative projects.

The Chinese narcissus is usually white, but four students at Xidu School in Fengxian District have cultivated multi-colored strains of the flower, and have even patented their intellectual property.

The idea came to the students when they wanted to make the flower looked more festive, as it usually blooms during the Spring Festival.

Their method was simple, but time consuming to perfect. The plan was to inject pigments into the plant and when the flower absorbed water, the water would carry color to the petals.

But the process was not easy. As the narcissus is usually planted in December, blooms in January and withers in February, the student researchers, under the guidance of teacher Li Ying, spent three years to achieve their intended results.

"The most difficult and most important part was to find the right pigments," said Zhang Haoyu, a six-grader who joined the team in the second year of the project. "It's a long process to find a colorant that could present colors stably in flowers and to make each flower colorful."

In the first year, they injected store-bought pigments and found they did not work. Some of these products made the flowers wither and others made the plants die.

Under the guidance of Jin Tianze, vice director of the district's youth activity center and director of the district's youth academy of sciences, they developed a colorant that does not harm the plant and does not influence the life cycle of the flower.

After much trial and error, they finally found the best position for pigment injection, which made it possible for the flowers to show not only a single color, but also multiple colors and gradients.

They were also invited to display their flowers at the China (Shanghai) International Technology Fair in April.

"I'm so proud of the kids," said Li. "Though only four students successfully cultivated a seven-colored narcissus, some previous students, who left the school for others, also contributed a lot and left their research notes to the successors."

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