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Little researchers win by a hair

The annual national Nysgjerrigper Science Knowledge contest is organised by the Research Council of Norway.

 

This group of six- and seven-year-olds from Tokke in Telemark County came away with top honours in the national Nysgjerrigper research contest for children. Photo: Mari Solerød This group of six- and seven-year-olds from Tokke in Telemark County came away with top honours in the national Nysgjerrigper research contest for children. (Photo: Mari Solerød)

Research topic from own experience

The girl who came up with the challenging query about sensitivity to hair-brushing is an unlucky sufferer herself. When no answer was to be found, even in medical textbooks, she and her schoolmates resolved to find out for themselves, equipped with a questionnaire, combs and brushes, and the smarts to seek some expert assistance.

The budding researchers explored a number of questions: Do children have more sensitive scalps than adults? Perhaps hard combs and brushes are to blame? Or do the extra-sensitive kids simply have impossibly tangled hair because they fidget a lot in their sleep?

After their extensive fact-finding efforts the pupils found out that compared to adults, children indeed have finer hair, making it more prone to tangles. They also found that it helps to comb at the ends first, and that using a soft brush is less painful than a hard comb.

Jury enthralled

The awards jury commended the prizewinners for having researched a problem that the children themselves had experienced and to which other children could relate. The jury was particularly impressed by the variety of methods the pupils had employed. “They drew from multiple sources, which strengthens the findings,” the jury pointed out, further applauding the use of Lego blocks as a visual aid in presenting the results of the survey carried out.

The young researchers were formally presented their award – and then treated to a high-action physics show – at the Science Centre of Northern Norway in Tromsø on 13 June.

Diverse research topics

The nine other winning entries in the national Nysgjerrigper Science Knowledge contest of 2012 explored a great variety of topics:

  • Will our maths scores improve if we are allowed to chew gum during maths lessons and while doing our homework?
  • Why do we itch?
  • Why are women better than men at doing several tasks at once?
  • Why do we celebrate with Christmas trees?
  • Why do some people become addicted to alcohol?
  • Why has our local dialect changed?
  • How can we make maths lessons less theoretical and more practical?
  • How can we use air power to propel a paper rocket to a height of 60 metres?
  • How are the living conditions for freshwater pearl mussels in our local waters?

The contestants in the annual Nysgjerrigper Science Knowledge contest are 6-13 years of age.

An inspiration to both pupils and teachers

More than 100 classes and groups of pupils competed for honours in the national Nysgjerrigper Science Knowledge contest 2012. In Norwegian the word Nysgjerrigper is used to describe an inquisitive person. The contestants follow a simple scientific method, known as the Nysgjerrigper method. Both pupils and teachers greatly enjoy this method of working, which triggers considerable enthusiasm and is an excellent introduction to methodical project work.

“The goal of the Nysgjerrigper project is to provide children up to the age of 13 with basic experience in research, which will hopefully encourage them to continue working with research and perhaps one day seek a career as researchers,” explains Kate Furøy, who heads the Nysgjerrigper secretariat, which is hosted by the Research Council of Norway.

In addition to the annual contest, the project also issues a magazine four times a year, has a web site and holds courses for teachers on the Nysgjerrigper working method.

 

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