For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing, often abbreviated as CQ, is pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring. CQ is a megacity of 30 million people in south-central China, on the Yangtze River. I’ve come a long, long way – 13 time zones to be exact – from my original hometown of Rolla in south-central Missouri, on the Little Dry Fork creek. Depending on how loosely you define “city”, one could argue that CQ is the world’s largest city. In my quest for a simple life, I write these observations and admonitions from my 18th-Floor homestead.
Breaking news! I just received notification that my first book, China Bound, is being promoted as part of a package. (Categories: Travel, Memoir, Self-help, Personal Development, Drivel.) You can find it here:
During this promotion period over the weekend, China Bound will be deeply discounted on Amazon.com (USA) and Amazon.co.uk (UK). Am I excited? You bet!
In a recent article, I mentioned an English friend, Miles Hudson, and his book 2089 about a rather dreary future. As described by Miles, this future world would have a 100% monitored society which would demand rigid conformity to lowest-common-denominator norms. Miles and I exchanged emails about his book. An interesting discussion ensued when this worldview was compared to my more benign future with free, universal AI (Artificial Intelligence). I visualized AI as “your personal assistant in your pocket” leading to a no-secrets society in a positive sense.
The reason Miles and I were having this literary exchange is because we had become friends but for an entirely different reason. We first met because of something he had created in his role as a teacher. I learned that, in addition to being a novelist, Miles was a teacher, a trainer of teachers, and a textbook writer. (His physics textbook has been used in Chinese classrooms for years and Miles came to China for a teachers orientation session in Wuhan in 2019.)
Photo courtesy of Miles Hudson
However, somehow, that wasn’t enough for Miles. He wanted to find a way to inspire students to learn more about science and space. He hoped to make these subjects interesting and compelling. So, he put on his writer’s hat and created a scienced-based story of space travel aimed at young students.
Now, let me pause to ask you, the reader of this article, a question. If you were the parent of a young student, would you be interested in something that made them eager to learn about space and science – and, especially in China, to further develop their English skills? (Teachers and grandparents, this is for you, also.) In my home, it is a daily battle each evening to get my eight-year-old son to finish his school homework. Undoubtedly, that scene is repeated in homes all around us.
What if we could approach this challenge differently? Would you, as a parent, welcome something that would magically transform reluctance and resistance into kids that were happy to read and learn? Would you like to see your kids asking questions about the planets and space travel – not because it was a required assignment, but because they were truly curious to learn more? Miles created his story to do exactly that.
As a teacher, that was Miles Hudson’s objective. As a writer, Miles wrote a story of two characters that kids can relate to (a junior astronaut, Tanno, and Iguda, his spacedog companion) and gave them a mission (to search through our solar system for a missing rocket ship). Miles created a story filled with science facts and authentic photos, then broke it into 12 short chapters. From each planet, the two characters, Tanno and Iguda, send back a report of the physical conditions they discovered on that planet, along with their adventures and misadventures – including spacedog Iguda peeing on the wheels of the lunar rover on the moon. Clever? You bet! Teachers know if you can make students curious, they will move mountains to learn more. Instead of pushing them with more homework (more pressure), you can offer them the reward of a satisfying story they will want to read for themselves (more fun).
Photo by Comfreak
Further brilliance from this experienced teacher followed. Miles realized that, even in our digital age, young students often prefer paper books over digital files they read on a screen. So, Miles created a system of mailing a large card with one chapter each week for 12 weeks – a physical product they can hold in their hands and show their friends. Plus, receiving a package addressed to them and delivered to their home adds to the excitement. One side of the card tells the continuing adventure. The opposite side contains authentic photos of the planets and other bodies in our solar system to add visual details to the story. Finally, there is a scannable QR code on each card to take the students to his web site in England where they can find more details and activities.
That is how I met Miles. I discovered his website in England. As a parent and teacher, I appreciated the concepts behind his cards. Immediately, I wanted to get them for my son. I contacted him and we began discussing his idea as teachers and colleagues. Quickly, we saw the potential for making millions of kids more interested in science and space travel – and especially in China, reading in English. Wouldn’t it be great to have a teacher like Miles Hudson for your student?
You can go to Miles Hudson’s website to see the final result of his genius idea. (Note: Miles lives in Durham, England so his website URL ends with .co.uk, not .com or .cn.) postcardsfromspace.co.uk.
Now you can see why I was eager to get these cards for my son. The process was complicated and slow but I finally got the cards delivered to me in Chongqing. And, I was right. Although my son is a little young (age 8) for reading the cards himself, he is very curious. When I read them to him, he is interested and asks lots of questions – the kind of questions that show he is learning about science and space travel and the planets. Best of all, he is excited when the next weekly card appears in an envelope addressed to him personally. He wants to finish his homework so I can read the next chapter to him. Spacing the delivery of the cards to one each week adds to the anticipation and value.
Currently, China is doing some fascinating things in exploring the solar system. Building a permanent space station and landing on Mars to send back photos are in the news daily. For many students, Miles’ series of 12 weekly cards to tell a story about our solar system would be the perfect introduction to these current events.
Photo by geralt
Yet, until now, it has been very difficult to get them from England. First, the bad news, then the good news…
The bad news is that sending 12 cards – one each week – from Durham, England to China is prohibitally expensive. There is the additional complication of addressing the mail in English; sometimes delivery of mail that is not addressed in Chinese is delayed because of the language. Also, packages arriving in China from abroad are subject to customs inspections, adding to the delivery time and potential complications. Finally, most Chinese credit cards are not configured for international purchases. Even if you can overcome the first obstacles, you still have to find a way to pay online for the cards.
Now, the good news. Very soon, all these problems will be solved. You will be able to get Miles’ cards delivered weekly to your home and directly into the hands of your student. Since I first encountered Miles and his brilliant idea several months ago, I have been talking with him about how to make his cards available in China without the usual complications.
As a result, a new company, Mind Fleet, (officially: Chongqing Mind Fleet Education Technology Co., Ltd.) has been created to overcome those obstacles. Mind Fleet will act as the intermediary between Chinese students and the company Miles created in England. Soon, Mind Fleet web pages will offer the cards, accept payments for the series, and expedite sending the cards to the students with Chinese addresses to avoid confusion and delays. Plus, to make things more comfortable for the kids– and the parents – the Mind Fleet web pages will be in both Chinese and English.
As you read these words, the many, many steps to take Mind Fleet from concept to registered business with a functioning website are in the final stages. The opening of Mind Fleet should be just in time to order the cards for delivery during the summer holiday. What a great gift.
Stay tuned for the upcoming announcement of our Grand Opening.
One last thought: Thank you, Mr. Don Priest, back in Rolla, Missouri so many years ago, for teaching me physics and math, and making them interesting. I’m sure you would smile and approve of Miles Hudson’s cards.
Questions? You can send personal email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you are welcome to write in the comments block below.
P.S. If you like the idea so far, you will be pleased to know that a second set of 12 cards is available and a third set will be released shortly. The first set, Postcards From Space, explores our solar system. In the second series of 12 new cards, Deep Space, our young adventurers go beyond the solar system to explore distant parts of the galaxy and beyond. The third series will return us to earth for a detailed and fascinating study of volcanoes. More series are planned for the future.
Photo by WikiImages