In the UK, a class of kids ages 8 to 10 have published an article in Biology Letters, the adult scientific journal of The Royal Society, reporting on the students’ experiment with bees. It is a delightful paper, full of their curiosity, wonder, and enthusiasm. Here is how it begins:
People think that humans are the smartest of animals, and most people do not think about other animals as being smart, or at least think that they are not as smart as humans. Knowing that other animals are as smart as us means we can appreciate them more, which could also help us to help them.
Several other scientific journals, though pleased by the children’s efforts, declined to publish it because it didn’t have the contextualization and review of literature that is customary in scientific papers. However, after several scientists peer reviewed the children’s work, and gave it positive reviews for its scientific contribution, it was accepted by Biology Letters.
The experiment was cunningly devised to test whether bees can tell which flowers they’ve already visited and which are good for nectar by using coloured lights, salt water and sugar water in a plexiglass cube. By varying the colours and locations of preferred and nasty water, the kids could tell whether the bees were able to remember and learn from their experience.
The full article is available free here until the end of December. It just brought tears to my eyes to read about these children whose interest in asking and answering questions was so nurtured by their conducting and writing up this experiment. As they said:
Principal finding ‘We discovered that bumble-bees can use a combination of colour and spatial relationships in deciding which colour of flower to forage from. We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before. (Children from Blackawton)’.