I was sent a link by a colleague to a science research paper published by 8-year-old students. It was written by a group of 25 British schoolchildren and published in a peer reviewed journal, Biology Letters. Anyone who has ever had an article peer reviewed will know what a big deal this is; the process is painstakingly onerous and often drawn out as the paper is written, submitted, sent for reviewed, reviewed twice (or more), feedback is given, then further revisions are made before the paper is finally published, if it even made it that far. That a class of students managed to succeed in carrying out their own scientific research and publishing it in a peer reviewed journal is more than impressive!
This project is an excellent example of authentic learning in action. The children were engaged in a complex process involving carrying out research about a topic and documenting both the process and results. Their findings, although not credited as ‘earth shattering’, were unique and their process was both valid and appropriate. The full paper about buff-tailed bumblebees learning to recognise nourishing flowers based on colours and patterns makes for great reading. It is written entirely in the children’s voice yet clearly includes all the necessary scientific language and processes. I am full of admiration for their teacher who turned a classroom learning opportunity into something incredibly extensive and robust. Whether or not these children go on to careers as scientists, writers, or even researchers, they will have all participated in a process that most adults would find challenging.