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Best budding researchers crowned

The top prize in this year’s annual, nationwide children’s Nysgjerrigper research contest went to pupils at a tiny school in Nordland county, where a combined class of seven children in grades 1-4 researched the question of why there are so few pupils at their school.

The Nysgjerrigper Science Knowledge Project is the Research Council of Norway’s initiative for generating interest in research among primary and lower secondary school pupils (up to the age of 13). Children from all across Norway participate, researching topics of their choosing – often issues that they wonder about in their daily lives.

Photo: Therese Farstad/ Norges forskningsråd (Photo: Therese Farstad/ Norges forskningsråd)

On 5 June, Norway’s renowned palaeontologist and dinosaur expert Jørn Hurum presented the contest’s most coveted prize to the class from the coastal village of Konsvik, in Lurøy municipality, who had examined why many schools across Norway have so few children.

Thoughts about small communities

Konsvik’s high proportion of elderly residents and significant depopulation are typical of small local communities in much of Norway. The winning topic reflects a contemporary trend which many people find gives cause for concern.

Photo: Ester Mæland/ Norges forskningsråd (Photo: Ester Mæland/ Norges forskningsråd) The pupils’ hypotheses about why certain schools have so few children ranged from low birth rates due to the advanced age of many residents, to depopulation due to a lack of jobs or discontent. After their research the pupils concluded that the main cause was that so few children are born in their community and in the surrounding municipalities, either because many residents are beyond child-bearing age or because it is not customary for families there to have many children. The hypotheses about jobs and discontent were not supported.

Future researchers

“We hope to plant a seed of interest in research, starting in the early school years,” said a proud Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council, as the Konsvik pupils received their prize. “In this year’s Nysgjerrigper Science Knowledge contest, the children have used genuine research methods to find answers to questions they are curious about. The Nysgjerrigper contest may help to encourage them to pursue a career in research.”

The jury commended the contest winners for having understood an issue which is current in many small communities throughout Norway. Using detailed analyses and a variety of methods, the pupils collected a large amount of data, gave careful consideration to their findings and even proposed solutions to the problem, the jury pointed out.

Written by:
Knut van der Wel/Else Lie. Translation: Darren McKellep/Carol B. Eckmann
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