17-year-old Clara Lu creates an online learning platform
January 9th 2020
Text and photo: HK Wen Wei Po, reporter Zhang Meiting
The coronavirus outbreak has changed people’s lives, and the severity of the pandemic has caused some students who originally studied abroad to remain in Hong Kong. Facing the change of lifestyle, some students chose to use their spare time during the day to set up an online learning platform, sharing the knowledge they gained from school to provide local Hong Kong students free academic enrichment programs. Currently, there are already around 2,000 student participants from underserved communities across 20 subsidized schools.
The online learning platform "Read For All" was initiated by the 17-year-old Clara Lu. She connected with those who excelled in various academic subjects to create educational kits, to act on her belief of “one's life is to serve others”, and share the knowledge she gained from studying in the United States with Hong Kong students. “Read For All” was established in 2016. An avid reader growing up, Clara soon realized that others around her were not as fortunate to have the access and opportunity to read a variety of books. She came up with the idea of sharing books and resources with others; this is how “Read For All” came to be. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 last year, causing Clara to remain in Hong Kong to continue her studies online rather than return to the United States, Clara and her two other schoolmates used the “Read For All" platform to provide local Hong Kong students with free educational kits in English Writing, Mathematics, Physics, Film, and Screenwriting to “allow students to gain knowledge in a fun and creative way during the pandemic." Clara said.
Educating students through self-made educational kits
“At first, I did not expect to have around 2,000 students, and I feel so happy that I am able to help so many of them.” Clara said with a smile. Three teachers and ten volunteers brought Read For All’s online learning platform to life, and the program has already benefited more than 2,000 students across 20 government subsidized schools. Clara frankly said she did not imagine the program to receive such a big response, and in the beginning only planned for summer classes, but “later on, because of the pandemic many schools suspended in-person classes, we continued the academic enrichment program, teaching even more courses beyond those taught in the classroom.” Clara said. The program is catered to students in the 5th and 6th grade, and the 3 teachers created educational kits and provided academic resources for each course. In every educational kit there are 3 homework assignments; students use the educational kits to self-study and hand in homework for the teachers to correct. If students have any questions regarding the homework, they can register for the free Zoom extra help sessions online where the teachers can assist in completing the assignment.
Clara, who is very interested in film and media studies, believes that those platforms will develop greatly in the future. She has also selected courses during her studies at school that are relevant to these subjects. Hence, Clara uses her own knowledge she gained from school in film and screenwriting to design courses by herself and teaches them to students. In the film class, students can learn about the different camera angles, as well as produce and edit their own short film. In order to make it easier for primary students to understand course content, Clara specially included topics that piqued students’ interest when creating the educational kits. “In the film class, I used clips from popular movies that students know of, such as ‘Frozen’ and ‘Iron Man’, to make homework assignments more fun and interesting.”
Clara excitedly shared with reporters the unforgettable moments in class with the students, "I never thought that students would edit their short films so well. They would add different film effects, add music and narration by themselves. They paid so much attention to detail. I love watching their short film homework assignments. They’re all so imaginative.”
Memorable impression of students’ fervent enthusiasm
Clara worked tirelessly and meticulously on her own during the entire process to promote the academic enrichment program to various schools in Hong Kong–from contacting schools to increase student participants to creating educational materials. “Because the schools all have to go through screenings to ensure the course content is of high calibre before allowing students to participate, when we first reached out to the schools, we had to provide the syllabus and program details for the school to consider. After the school’s approval, we still have to communicate with the teachers in order for the students to take part in the program.” said Clara. Solely communicating with schools took up a few months. When asked about the difficulties faced when starting this online learning platform, Clara frankly said the greatest challenge was language, “because my Chinese is not perfect, I always wrote my educational kits in English first.” However, the language issue did not discourage Clara; on the contrary, she put more time into translating the English phrases on the educational kits into Chinese, sentence by sentence.
Although Clara remained in Hong Kong due to the pandemic, her studies were never suspended, and like other students, attended online classes. "My school's online lessons start at 9pm. I allocate a good amount of time for homework in the morning until 1pm, and so in the afternoon, I can help students participating in the program correct their homework.” Although Clara’s daily schedule is densely packed–busy with her studies and work for the learning platform–she enjoys the process. “I think it’s really fun.” Clara said, laughing.
Since last year, the "Read For All" online learning platform has been collaborating with Tung Wah Group of Hospitals to direct a student charity theatre performance. The students participating in the play come from two schools, with a total of 12 main actors and actresses. They are currently conducting rehearsals and are expected to perform later this month. Clara plays the role of playwright and director in the play. What is most memorable about this project is the students’ positive energy. “Every time we finish rehearsals, or when someone shows improvement on stage, each of them will clap in congratulations. I remember there was a boy who at first was very shy and did not dare to speak loudly. Now, he is improving every rehearsal and is becoming even more expressive. And when the students applaud for him, I think they have a great spirit.” When it comes to the difference in learning attitudes between Hong Kong students and foreign students, Clara said that the difference is not too big, and Clara also said that because she is already enrolled in high school, she often has exams, and the pressure from academics is relatively high, which sometimes affects her emotions. But when she meets the students in her play, their positive attitude brings her more energy.
Link to Article: https://www.wenweipo.com/a/202101/09/AP5ff8c1f4e4b0553aff38c469.html