Pupils scoop prize for unravelling conker theory

15 July 2010

A group of primary school children have been honoured by the Royal Society of Chemistry for disproving the theory that spiders are afraid of conkers. 

Year 5 and 6 pupils at Roselyon School, in Par, Cornwall, responded to a nationwide challenge from the Royal Society of Chemistry to discover whether spiders really are repelled by conkers. It was thought that spiders were frightened either by the conkers' shiny surface or unique odour. 

The youngsters relished the challenge and undertook a series of investigations which they devised themselves which all showed that spiders are not repelled by conkers at all. They posted their results on the website YouTube and have been awarded a special 300 prize by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The RSC decided to offer the reward for conclusive evidence after receiving suggestions from members of the public that they had hit upon a great new way of keeping their homes spider-free.

The pupils placed the eight-legged creatures in boxes with conkers and stones - and noted that most of them climbed over the conkers. Spiders were also placed in a water tank with a choice of escaping across a bridge made of wood or conkers - and most chose the conker route. 

RSC spokesman Jon Edwards said Roselyon School had finally disproved the age-old theory that conkers can keep bugs out of the house. 

He said: "When we consulted a spider expert at the Natural History Museum he was highly sceptical about the spider theory. We even tried it ourselves but couldn't reach a scientific conclusion. The Roselyon entry stood out from the crowd because of the balanced, scientific methods and well designed experiments. They should be proud of their fair mindedness, scientific rigour and logical thinking."

Andrew Ferguson, science teacher at the school, said: "Many people are scared of spiders - but our children are not among them and were not worried abut handling them. The children are thrilled that their efforts have won this prize. Apart from being good fun, the project provided an invaluable learning experience. Many people are terrified of spiders, but one other thing our video also demonstrated is that Roselyon children are not among them."

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