8-Year-Olds in England Make Scientific Breakthrough. What Did Your Kids Do?

Smart kid
A group of elementary school kids in England experimented with bees. Just bees, no birds.

When I was 8, I was the Blue Fairy in the school production of “Pinocchio.” The teacher was close to casting me as Geppetto, but ultimately in the audition process it became obvious that I couldn’t sing on key. Fortunately there were a few parts that required talking only, and I was just as thrilled (if not more so) to wave a wand and wear a gown instead, so all’s well that ends well.

I did countless other things when I was 8, including ride my bike around the cul-de-sac in front of our house and play “Charlie’s Angels” and “CHiPs” (a true child of the early ‘80s) with my friends. What I didn’t do, however, was get any studies published in any scientific journals. Of course, most 8-year-olds don’t. Some, however, do.

A group of elementary school kids in England, ages 8-10, recently made it into Britain’s Royal Society with their findings from an investigation on colors and patterns as seen by bumblebees. The fact that their writing and diagrams were handwritten and hand-drawn didn’t matter much to the prestigious peer-reviewed journal.

In fact, the organization said the kids’ findings were a “genuine advance” in the field, and that their work was carefully documented. Bees were trained through a sugar reward system to go to different color targets, and the kids found that they remembered cues according to the colors and patterns.

The principle finding of the kids? “We discovered that bumble-bees 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.”

I have only a few serious regrets about my childhood (although the ones I have are rather substantial). But now I kind of regret not at least trying to get published in a scientific journal. Forget that I’m seriously math- and science-challenged. Would it have (figuratively) killed me to give up an afternoon of playing doctor with my Cabbage Patch Dolls to spend some time poking some bees? Could I have set the bar higher than just trying to snag Ricky Schroeder’s autograph? After all, while collecting the same amount of black rubber bracelets as Madonna was cool, I’d argue getting my research published in a scientific journal might have been even more so.

What do your kids do for fun?