Ellen Biderman, former co-director of the Santa Fe Children's Museum, now an early childhood consultant (and author of an upcoming Tumbleweeds article about outdoor play) recommends this amazing TED Talk, "Science is For Everyone: Kids Included," presented by neuroscientist Beau Lotto and Amy O'Toole--a 12-year-old girl who, along with 25 of her classmates, published the first peer-reviewed article by school children.
"What is evolution's answer to the problem of uncertainty? It's play," Lotto says. "If you add rules to play, you have a game. That's actually what an experiment is."
Working from the notions that science is a way of being and that experiments are play, he and his colleagues asked: Can anyone become a scientist?
"Who better to ask than twenty-five 8- to 10-year old children, because they're experts in play!" he says.
With the scientists' guidance, students at the Blackawton Primary School in Devon, England considered ways of testing bees' ability to solve complex problems. The children devised a game -- a.k.a. experiment -- measuring bees' ability to discriminate between flowers based on color and pattern. Bees that visited flowers of a specific color in a specific pattern were rewarded with nectar. The children's results (published in "Biology Letters" complete with their hand-drawn tables and smiley faces) not only expanded our understanding of how bees forage for food, but also affirmed that children have the innate qualities of good scientists.
Look for Lotto and O'Toole's TED Talk here, and look for Ellen Biderman's article on discovering wonder in nature in the Summer 2014 issue of Tumbleweeds!