Elementary School Science Study Gets International Recognition
Thirty youngsters from Blackawaton Primary School in Devon, England have earned themselves the bragging rights of becoming the youngest scientists to get published in a prestigious science journal.
It all began when Beu Lotto, a neuroscientist and parent of then 8-year old Misha, came to talk to the kids about how fun science is. To prove to them that it is nothing more than a game to figure out nature's patterns and relationships, he and school principal decided to get the kids to research an original science experiment.
After several discussions about what topic would interest them, the kids settled on bumblebees. Then came the bigger question - What should the research be about? After intense debate about topics which ranged from silly things like could bumblebees play soccer, to more serious ones like can they associate color with heat, (something that had already been researched in the past), the students hit upon an original research idea - Could bees use spatial relationships between colors to figure out which flowers had nectar and which didn't? The kids figured that if bees could solve this, they would be able to avoid the flowers that had no nectar or ones where it had already been sucked out.
To test the idea, the students set up a Plexiglas bee hutch in a church near their school and designed a few puzzles for the bees to solve. In the first one, they placed a sheet of paper with a number of blue and yellow circles at the end of the bee arena. Two panels comprised of four blue circles surrounded by 12 yellow circles, while the other two comprised of the opposite arrangement - that is four yellow circles surrounded by twelve blue ones. Only the inner circles led to sugary water.
To the student's delight, most of the bees soon learned how to recognize the patterns and color and headed directly to the panels near the sugary water. To ensure it was not the smell, but the patterns and color that the bees were using, the young scientists took the water away, noting that 90.6 percent of the bees still made their way to the 'sugary' water flowers. However, like real scientists they tested the concept one step further by conducting the same experiment using 'green' flowers to see if bees were capable of using just the spatial patterns - They discovered that without the colors the bees seemed quite confused and flew around randomly.
Their conclusion? Bees use both color and spatial patterns to seek out nectar - A finding that may not be 'earth shattering', but is quite intriguing, even to the experts.
The students kept a strict log of all their observations and even wrote a 'scientific' paper to report their findings - While it may not be as professional (and boring) as one done by a real scientist, it sure was good enough to be published in a prestigious peer reviewed science journal called 'Biology Letters'.
Mr. Lotto and the school principal Mr. Studwick, are now developing a program dubbed 'I scientist' at their local science museum, where they hope to encourage similar original studies. They are also hoping that the success of these young students will encourage other schools to do the same.
Source:wired.com, guardian.co.uk, rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org