What better a way to have kids learn about science than letting them be real scientists?
A delightful paper: "Blackawton Bees", published in the journal Biology Letters in December 2010, is authored by an unusual string of scientists. They are 8-10-year-olds at Blackawton primary school in UK.
This group of kids not only conducted the experiments described in the paper, they also wrote the article in their own words (apparently all of it except the abstract).
The study shows the ability of bees to "solve" a puzzle in the process of searching for food (sugar water). The kids describe the experiment in their own endearing words:
This experiment is important, because, as far as we know, no one in history (including adults) has done this experiment before. It tells us that bees can learn to solve puzzles (and if we are lucky we will be able to get them to do Sudoku in a couple of years’ time). In this experiment, we trained bees to solve a particular puzzle. The puzzle was go to blue if surrounded by yellow, but yellow if surrounded by blue.
Here's part of their description of the methodology, discussing how the bees were marked:
We let the foragers into the arena and turned the lights off, which made the bees stop ﬂying (because they do not want to ﬂy into anything). We picked the bees up with bee tweezers and put them into a pot with a lid. We then put the tube with the bees in it into the school’s fridge (and made bee pie :-)). The bees fell asleep. Once they fell asleep, we took the bees out, one at a time, and painted little dots on them (yellow, blue, orange, blue-orange, blue-yellow,The grown-ups involved in formulating this study and planning it were David Strudwick, a teacher, and Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist, whose son was in the class.
etc.). We put them into the tube and warmed them up and then let them into the arena. No bees were harmed during this procedure.
For more on the story of this amazing study, see: