More young scientists: 8-Year-Olds Publish Scientific Bee Study

This one’s from last month, but it was sent to me after my last quick hit and I couldn’t resist the urge to share another story of young folk doing ground-breaking science work:

Figures from the paper "Blackawton bees" showing the pattern of coloured dishes and the test results

“We discovered that bumblebees can use a combination of colour and spatial relationships in deciding which colour of flower to forage from,” the students wrote in the paper’s abstract. “We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before.”

The paper itself is well worth reading. It’s written entirely in the kids’ voices, complete with sound effects (part of the Methods section is subtitled, “”the puzzle’…duh duh duuuhhh”) and figures drawn by hand in colored pencil.

One of the things that’s awesome about this article is the fact that they aren’t worrying about pushing the kids towards science as a career. I’ve often found it infuriating how school curricula is becoming increasingly career-oriented and there was much talk of streaming when I was in public school and not nearly enough time for learning things because they’re interesting. (I learned violin anyhow, but missed out on world history.)

Strudwick says the project has completely changed the way Blackawton Primary School approaches science education, and that the students have a much more positive view of science now than three years ago. The students’ scores on Britain’s national science exams are well above average, too.

Misha Lotto, now 10, says his view of science changed thanks to the bees.

“I thought science was just like math, really boring,” he said. “But now I see that it’s actually quite fun. When you’re curious, you can just make up your own experiment, so you can answer the question.”

Some of the students now want to be scientists when they grow up, but some still want to be soccer players and rock stars. That’s okay, Lotto says.

“If they don’t turn out to be scientists, that’s not a big deal,” he said. “The hope is that this kind of program doesn’t just create data and information and little scientists. Being uncomfortable with uncertainty, in fact being excited about not knowing — that’s really what we’re trying to foster through science.”

You can read the whole article on wired or check out their published paper in Biology Letters.