Eight-year-old children publish bee study in Royal Society journal
Their paper, based on fieldwork carried out in a local churchyard, describes how bumblebees can learn which flowers to forage from with more flexibility than anyone had thought. It’s the culmination of a project [Blackawton Bees]
called ‘i, scientist’, designed to get students to actually carry out scientific research themselves.
The class (including Lotto’s son, Misha) came up with their own questions, devised hypotheses, designed experiments, and analysed data. They wrote the paper themselves (except for the abstract), and they drew all the figures with colouring pencils.
It’s a refreshing approach to science education, in that it actually involves doing science.
The children designed a Plexiglas cube with two entrances and a four-panelled light box in the middle. Each panel had 16 coloured lights, illuminated in clear patterns of blue and yellow. Each light had a feeder that dispensed either delicious sugar water or repulsive salty water. Once the bees had learned to drink from the feeders, the kids turned the lights on.
Absolutely great stuff. This is how to engage kids in science. Engage their inquisitive minds. Let them get involved. Let them experiment.
Some of the children’s questions when looking at what to discover using experiments:
What if… we could find out how much effort the bees will go through in order to get a reward? For instance, they have to move something heavy out of the way to get a reward.
What if… we could discover if bees can learn to go to certain colours depending on how sweet they are?
What if… we could find out how many colours they could remember?
Related: Playing Dice and Children’s Numeracy – Kids on Scientists: Before and After – Test it Out, Experiment by They Might Be Giants – What Kids can Learn – Tinker School: Engineering Camp – Teen diagnoses her own disease in science class
And some of their comments: