Young People Can't {Can!} Do Real Science


"We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before."

With my academic training and years of reflecting on how to teach science, I don't think I could develop a more compelling statement than this, written by a group of elementary school students.

As graduate students in science, we struggle mightily to get a paper published in a top journal. This story reported by Ed Yong in Discover magazine reminds us that pure science, the process of discovery, can be accomplished by young children. Some would argue that you need to be a professional scientist to publish in top journals; at the very least, to hold a bachelor's degree in science. Perhaps these children can teach us professional scientists something!

The referees of the publication "argued that young people can't do real science." Good thing that the Editors had better sense.

So, the paper published in Biology Letters by the Royal Society begins, written by 8 to 10 year olds, and, of course, their teacher (available free to the public until January 1):

Background: Science education rarely involves science. And yet real science has the potential to not only amaze, but also transform the way one thinks of the world and oneself.

This published paper seems to break the traditional rules of citing works and....

You can intellectualize all you want, but this paper represents the purity of discovery framed by carefully addressed questions. I invite you to read the paper and reflect upon science education. Reading this study of bees gives me hope that future generations will unveil things that we could only dream of at this moment.

Their discovery? According to the paper:

Principal finding: 'We discovered that bumblebees
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. (Kids from

Thank you, Ed Yong, for sending me a preprint of this amazing scientific publication! Bravo to the Blackawton Primary School in Blackawton, Devon, UK!

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Umm, the paper is still embargoed, according to your link. So it will flash briefly across the electronic sky and be back behind a paywall before I see it.

NOTE TO READERS: I have corrected the link in my article. Enjoy!