After the talk, Lotto and Dave Strudwick, Blackawton Primary School’s head teacher, decided to try to do an original research project with the students where the kids would have full control. Lotto also ran a scientific outreach program called Street Science, whose aim was to get non-scientists to do original experiments outside the lab. He and Strudwick wondered if the same idea would work in a classroom.[...]
The class of students, after much contemplation, settled on studying the mental abilities of bees:
Ultimately, the class decided to investigate whether bees could use spatial relationships between colors to figure out which flowers had sugar water in them, and which didn’t. The question has interesting implications for bees in the wild, the kids pointed out. If some flowers are bad or have already been sucked dry of nectar, bees should learn to avoid them, “which is like a puzzle.”[...]
Getting the paper published was a struggle as well. In particular, several journals got stuck on the fact that the paper doesn’t cite any references. Lotto says they left the references out because the historical context wasn’t what inspired the kids, anyway.
“That wasn’t the basis for doing the experiment, it was what was interesting to them. That’s the driver of any quality science study,” Lotto said. “That’s what I tell my PhD students: Don’t do any reading. Figure out why you wake up in the morning, what you’re passionate about, and then read the literature. But don’t figure out what’s interesting based on what other people say.”
Link | Article | Photo (unrelated) via Flickr user aquariumia used under Creative Commons license
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