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8-Year-Olds Publish Scientific Bee Study 174

flintmecha writes "A group of British schoolchildren may be the youngest scientists ever to have their work published in a peer-reviewed journal. In a new paper in Biology Letters, children from Blackawton Primary School report that buff-tailed bumblebees can learn to recognize nourishing flowers based on colors and patterns. 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."


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8-Year-Olds Publish Scientific Bee Study

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  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:26PM (#34648224) Journal

    ... but sadly isn't, all too often. That said, it's good to know that there are teachers out there who care to run such projects, as well as lucky bright kids to take part in them.

  • Idle? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Garth Smith ( 1720052 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:28PM (#34648242) Homepage

    This story has been tagged "idle" by Slashdot. That's an insult! What's wrong with our culture that even the geeks and nerds among us don't see education as important? These 8-10 year olds just had a better science lesson than most anything kids get today.

    The best science class I ever had was in high school. My lab partner and I were given 2 test tubes with 2 types of bacteria. This was out of a possible 10 types. We were given 2 weeks to identify them and write a report on our methods. This was when I was 16! Not only did I learn a lot but that was just such a fucking cool assignment that I would consider it a much MUCH better experience than YEARS of mediocre science classes combined! Science was actually exciting, and I pray to Christ and the Buddha that these teachers get some respect soon before stupid takes over.

  • by Feminist-Mom ( 816033 ) <feminist@mom.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:50PM (#34648420)
    I hate to be the cynic, but this looks really contrived. And phrases like the one in the abstract "we learned that science can be cool" (paraphrased) are so old hat and trite. I hear my kid come back from school programmed to say the same thing. It seems that this work could give the children involved what actual scientific work is like. I am concerned that the real reason for this work to further the career of their attention getting teacher. [Just conjecture.]
  • by Wingit ( 98136 ) <mrericdjohnson@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:50PM (#34648436)

    Brilliant work and pure science for the sake of science. It is not earth shattering news, but is exactly what science is meant to bring to the human experience. The life of the children involved is forever changed. Now some of them will go on to discover more things that are right under our nose and write about it intelligently. Few will care but, in the end, we all benefit.

  • Re:Idle? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @10:13PM (#34648540) Journal

    Agreed. By the looks of the paper they wrote, it seems that many of the better science fair projects ought to try submitting their results too.

    10 years old: determine differences in plant growth between indoor lighting and natural sun light (never thought to do what these kids did though... oh well)

    15: genetic transformation of bacteria w/ ampicillin resistance gene (successful)

    19: Selenium hyperaccumulation research paper submitted and accepted by Science

    I know I've done that experiment too but I forget exactly when it was. From what I've seen, it seems that a lot of the difference between a good education and a rather mediocre one is in what you decide to take if you have a choice. If you take genetics in high school, you'll probably get to do a lot of neat stuff compared to just trying to slide through school.

    Of course a lot of the problem lies with the teachers who have often had their curiosity ruined in their school years like a lot of other people have. What needs to happen is geeks like us need to become teachers or at least mentors and inspire the next generation to do the neat stuff we did.

  • by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @10:15PM (#34648560)

    I think it's great that these students are excited about science and were able to participate in a learning experience like this, but after reading the paper it's clear to me this was published only because the children are 8; the true value of this paper is for educators in the sciences looking to motivate children through unique projects.

    I hate to be a Negative Nancey, but if the current paper (with more formal language of course) were submitted for by a college graduate it would be rejected outright. The paper begins by asserting that the ability to problem solve is a sign of extreme intelligence, and further conflates pattern recognition and intelligence. The methods seem sound (control, rigorous data taking) but there is no statistical analysis of the data to show correlations, just a statement of "more did this therefore..." Further they make the claim that no one has ever done this particular experiment, yet a quick search [google.com] yield over 50,000 articles pertaining to pattern recognition in bees. Yet nothing like this was ever conducted? Seriously? Given this prior research, it is their obligation to show how their research is unique and different, and further why it is important. I realize the paper states that the students couldn't do this since the language in the literature is far above their level, but it's just another reason showing this paper was published because of their age, not because of the work.

    Again, good on the students for having fun and enjoying science, but I'm a firm believer that results should stand on their own irrespective of the experimenter's ages.

  • Re:Idle? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @10:19PM (#34648576)

    I think you've got that backwards. Teachers and Scientists => Nerds/Geeks who often were victims of bullying do most of the intellectual work while the more "social", manipulative group became politicians and bankers. School is just a much more extreme form of real life.

  • by shoehornjob ( 1632387 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @10:33PM (#34648670)

    Few will care but, in the end, we all benefit.

    Screw the people that don't care about engaging kids in science. America is sadly deficient in this area. We're overly preocupied with our false reality (tv) to appreciate the need for kids to learn science and math. I love the little bit at the end:

    The project was funded privately by Lottolab Studio, as the referees argued that young people cannot do real science.

    What they did was commendable even if the teacher had to transcribe their work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @10:55PM (#34648792)

    Why is it that in one second we condemn standardization as evil, and in the next we praise standardization as a means of separating the wheat from the chaff?

  • Re:and (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Thursday December 23, 2010 @04:45AM (#34650080) Homepage Journal

    I think you mean 'and' as in the primary school published and the journal's scientific reputation perished.

    I guarantee you that the reputation of Biology Letters is not in any danger. It is and will remain a top-tier journal, and its readership will pay no attention to the opinions of trolls in making this judgement.

  • by AlecC ( 512609 ) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @06:47AM (#34650484)

    On the other hand, international comparisons show that the most successful school systems are the ones where teachers are recruited from the high flyers. Finland was given as an example. From the article (in The Economist) it seemed that a really good teacher was far more important than class size, one of the things that people fight for. The conclusion seemed to be to pay, and respect, teachers more so that high flyers see teaching as a worthwhile career, and let class sizes grow if they have to.

  • Re:Idle? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <DStaal@usa.net> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @10:06AM (#34651186)

    These kids did advance our collective knowledge. They did an experiment that no one else had done, because they were interested in the results. From those results they learned something.

    I see no reason a good science fair project couldn't do the same. If a elementary school kids in Egypt or a high school kid in Tanzania (see: 'The Mpemba effect') can do it, why not others?

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