MAXianghan. MFA Design & Technology.


2017 - THESIS (on going) - MFADT



2017.2.1 - Brief


  • How to design curriculum for Chinese classrooms that implements Art and Design thinking in the process of learning STEM concepts.

  • How to shift Chinese Education from multidisciplinary STEM education into fully integrated transdisciplinary STEAM education.

  • How to equip the next generation of kids with the 21st Century Literacies (collaboration; communication; creativity; systems thinking critical thinking; problem solving).

  • What should STEAM Project Based Learning looks like in Chinese Classrooms?

  • How to make students engage more in Chinese Classrooms?

  • How to be a comprehensivist polymath like Da Vinci? 

KNOW it is a set of project-based-curriculums design that aim to implements Art and Design thinking in the process of learning STEM concepts in Chinese classrooms. The curriculum provide users with instruction books, exercise books, necessary tools in a kit to learn about certain knowledge. It will be a series of curriculum. I’m focusing on designing project based curriculum targeting the 5th grade students in China age from 10 to 12 about the subject of science. With research, experiments, hands-on making prototypes and iterations as well as presentations.

By offering a creative avenue to explore science, the goal is to teach the next generation of students to not only learn and be fascinated about science, but to reconnect with the science happening in their life and light their passion for a life-long learning habit. KNOW it aims to provide an alteration to the current Chinese education system. KNOW it is designed to cultivates the next generation’s creativity and their urge to ask WHY’s as well as the ability to search for answers and learn through making.

Growing up, I have always been on the receiving end of education, I’ve never think about how a class was structured and how the curriculum was designed, all my life I’ve only taken what was presented to me in class and worried about how to pass the exams. I was only begun to reflect on the relationship between the Educator and the Educated since last year.

I was born and raised in Beijing, immersed in the Chinese compulsory education all the way to college. From what I remember the most, starting middle school, the higher level I go, classes like Physical Education, Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation, Technical Skills were the first to cut down, when we reached eighth and ninth grades, these “unimportant classes” were all replaced by other science classes. It made me realize that fun wasn’t part of the Chinese class curriculum, and our school doesn’t value artistic abilities at all. The studying environment; the way the classroom was arranged; the way that teachers would pose themselves as superior to the students and would get angry if their students question their authority; the intensity of the school workload; the fact that there were average 50 students in one classroom, etc. are not friendly to cultivates student’s creativity and individuality. This militarized studying environment really suffocates me. The “A” in STEAM education in China is blank. And the biggest misunderstanding is that society view art as useless stuff. It won’t help the students to land a secure job in the future. It is the one thing that doesn’t have the “right” answer, the one thing that can’t be evaluated by grades and there won’t be any significant short-term result. I want to CHANGE that BIAS. What they don't know is that ART is the best adhesive agent of SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING and MATH.


Art Education, and the creativity and innovative ability through which it cultivates will enhance the learning result of STEM. The essence of Art Education is to bring out each student's differences, activates their personality, let their imagination flow and cultivates their empathy towards others. In turn, this will help them to solve real life problems more creatively using their STEM skills. One individual can be both a scientist and a design director. Enhance student’s cross-disciplinary competitive force, which I think is the most important ability this world needs right now.


All human beings have two desires, one is to be stronger, with the help of industrial revolution, new technologies has helped human race achieved this goal. And the second desire is to make ourselves stand out in the crowd, bring out our most talented traits and make others admire then attracts the opposite sex’s attention and find the opportunity to pass on our genes. This is an ancient line of code that engraved in our genes.


The social structure of our society is changing, Art Education is the best tool to cultivate individuality that makes each one stands out and be more different.


That is why, KNOW it is born to try to tackle this problem, to provide an alternative to the current Chinese Education system. By redesigning curriculum that instead of just teaching the knowledge point and training students to excel in exams and only know the “right answer”, I’m offering a possibility that encourages students to make mistakes and fell forward, learn from their “failures”.

2016 Summer

Tsinghua University Teacher's Workshop

During a week in the Summer of 2016,  I was part of a workshop that was held in Beijing Tsinghua University. Teachers from all over the country came to Beijing to participate in this workshop, learning how to implement Art and Design thinking into their own classrooms. They came from different backgrounds, there were Math teachers, Literature teachers, Music teachers, Physic teachers, social science teachers. They were teamed up to work on different projects that can be implemented in their own practice and experimented with multiple softwares and hardwares that are popular in today's maker education scene.

One of the course I designed was tested in this workshop, I bought old machineries from second hand market and asked the teachers to tear them apart, then redesign imaginative creatures using the scattered parts. Adding small electronic modules like mcookies or CCBits (similar to LittleBits) to make these creatures move. This class can be used in their own classrooms. 

Since then, I've been trying to figure out the appropriate way to reach out to more teachers and students, how can I make classroom experience more fun and interactive and students would actually learn and remember knowledge through Project Based Learnings. 

I experimented with different possible activities that can be used in classroom settings. 

1.  Maybe they can write their own story and make a interactive pop-up book? 






2. Maybe they can design a custom made soft circuit controller that controls their favorite game. 






3. Maybe they can use their childhood drawing and turn it into an interactive own. Their own unique game. 






4. Maybe they can team up and design a physical interactive game, using just simple switch circuits. 






Then I realize, these activities are too broad and scattered and doesn't have a cohesive theme. I need to give myself some restrictions. So, over the winter break, I decided to focus on redesigning the 5th grade Science textbook in China. 

One of the precedent I was looking at is called 美感教科书改造计划. A group of Taiwanese students redesigned the 5th grade literature textbook. Their philosophy is that the students spend most of their time in classrooms and through textbook, it is the best way to unconsciously influence their artistic senses. 

So I started to redesigned the textbook of 5th grade Science Textbook. 

2017.2.7 - User Test


  • People HATE Textbook.

  • Why are you reinventing the wheels. Textbooks already exists.

  • STOP visualizing the textbook. STOP reinventing the wheel. NO MORE Textbook design. 

  • I’m thinking inside the box.

  • Scientific method = creative process

  • Kids love scary stuff / Super powers: how do I have my own wings that can take me to the skies? How do I design shoes that has springs that make me jump high? How do I build a car completely by myself? 

Then I started to focus on designing for the 5th grade's Science class. 

The original version

The original version


2017.2.16 - User Test


  • The new design made more sense (with instructions). 
  • The new design is more age appropriate. The previous design feels like it is targeting a younger age group (3-5 years).
  • I was introduced to a precedent in China called Anji Play:  Anji Play is a internationally-recognized early childhood curriculum developed and tested over the past 16 years by educator Cheng Xueqin. Today, Anji Play is the curriculum of the 130 public kindergartens in Anji County, China serving more than 14,000 children from ages 3 to 6. Through sophisticated practices, site-specific environments, unique materials and integrated technology Anji Play is quickly establishing itself as a new global standard for early childhood education. Love, Risk, Joy, Engagement, Reflection, these are the guiding principles of Anji Play. 


Xianghan Ma