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Study by 8-year-olds published in prestigious science journal

Zachary Roth
The Lookout

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bumble bee

Most elementary-school science experiments wind up gathering dust in the basement. This one found its way into a prestigious scientific publication, the Associated Press reports.

Biology Letters, a peer-reviewed journal of Britain's Royal Society, on Wednesday published a report (PDF, complete with colored-pencil diagrams) on how bumblebees see colors and patterns -- conducted and written by a group of 8- to 10-year-olds in Devon, England.

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The budding scientists, working under the "light supervision" of a neuroscientist from University College, London, trained bees to go to targets of varying colors by rewarding them with sugar. They reported that the bees were capable of learning and remembering cues based on color and pattern -- a finding that the Royal Society called "a genuine advance."

The Royal Society is more than 300 years old and includes some of the world's most eminent scientists.

The report's language isn't quite what you'd expect to find in a scientific journal. "Scientists do experiments on monkeys, because they are similar to man," the introduction reads. "But bees could actually be close to man too."

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The children concluded: "We like bees. Science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before."

Scientists wrote in an accompanying commentary: "The perceptual and decisional abilities of insects and others are ...  shaped as successful responses to environmental challenges. But the same can be said of the children who carried out this research. The resulting article is a remarkable demonstration of how natural scientific reasoning is for us. The insatiable curiosity that characterizes childhood, combined with the skeptical discipline of scientific method, provides a powerful tool that allows us to prosper and grow."

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(Photo: AP/Odd Andersen)

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