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Bumblebee Paper by 8 to 10-year-olds published by Royal Society

By Paromita Pain - 29 Dec 2010 9:11:0 GMT
Bumblebee Paper by 8 to 10-year-olds published by Royal Society

Scientists seem to be getting younger every day. The newest kids on the block would to many seem kids and at age eight they are too. But Biology Letters, a peer-reviewed journal of Britain's Royal Society, doesn't think so. Recently a team of 8 to 10-year-olds from the Blackawton Primary School,Devon, England, did a project on how bumblebees see colours and patterns. Like many school projects theirs too would have been graded and left to gather dust in the class cupboard but this wasn't just about information about the bees collated and presented neatly.

The budding scientists here actually trained bees to fly to objects marked by different colours and rewarded them with sugar.  Putting the experiment together with the help of a a neuroscientist from University College, London, their work has been appreciated by the Royal Society as a 'genuine advance'. And considering what the Royal Society (a “fellowship of the world's most eminent scientists and is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence”) is, this is no mean feat. The Society has published the entire report with pencil coloured diagrams in its latest issue.

Scientific truths

For all those dreading the science class at school, the reports opening lines contain truth we can all learn from. “Real science has the potential to not only amaze, but also transform the way one thinks of the world and oneself,” starts the report.

David Letterman videos of 'Stupid Dog Tricks', in which dogs were trained to do funny things proved to be a good resource. All was not easy and many hurdles had to be overcome before the experiment could be given shape.  The bees didn't learn to identify the colors easily and it took patience and the designing of many intricate puzzles till they got it right. The Bombus terrestris type of bee was used.

Perhaps the most important leaning has been for the young scientists themselves. As they say in their report, “We also did not think about the fact that without bees we would not survive, because bees keep the flowers going”.