I Wonder... by Olivia Brinkley-Green
It all started on a sunny Tuesday morning, at the picnic that Mrs. Montgomery had organised to raise funds for the school. She had laid out a wonderful spread with jam tarts, cheese scones and home grown lettuce, and everyone in the village had paid two pounds each to join in. Soon her collection tin was completely full, and she was happily showing her guests the newest addition to her garden, a sweet fennel plant in full bloom.
“Isn't it lovely?” she said, pointing to the clusters of vibrant, yellow flowers, “So cheerful and vibrant, and it smells wonderful.”
The picnic was perfect. Well, until the wasps arrived. First, one flew onto Mrs. Montgomery's hat, then another landed on a jam tart, then lots more were crawling around on the tartan blanket. Soon, the garden was filled with wasps and they by far outnumbered the people. Little Eleonora, a ten year old child with black curly hair, watched the commotion with fascination. “Where have all those wasps come from?” She asked her mum, wide-eyed. Her mum said that she wasn't sure, but she thought it was time to go home, as did the rest of the guests at the picnic.
Two days later, the swimming club were about to start the relay race. Eleonora was bobbing up and down in the shallow end with the rest of her group, waiting for the whistle to signal the start, when she saw her mum waving from the sidelines. She waved back, then looked again and realised something odd was going on. That's strange, she thought to herself, all of the adults are waving. Are they waving? Or
“Wasps!” The swimming teacher shouted, “This place is full of wasps! Get out of the pool children! But careful now, no running!” The adults collected their children and hurried out of the building leaving behind the prizes, a box of chocolates and a bunch of daffodils and sweet fennel flowers donated by Mrs. Montgomery.
The next morning, Mrs. Montgomery began her lesson by bringing in a tray of plants to show the children. “We are going to be learning about how flowers grow,” she explained, so I've brought in some examples from my garden to show you.” She started handing out pencils to the class, but was interrupted by Eleonora calling out, “A wasp just flew in the window! And another, and another!” The children were giggling and shrieking, excited by the interruption. Mrs. Montgomery ran across the classroom and closed the window and told the children to settle down. Eleonora asked, “But why are the wasps here?” Mrs. Montgomery could not say, but she kept the windows shut for the rest of the lesson just in case.
On her walk home from school, Eleonora overheard the baker saying to a customer that he was not selling cakes at the moment for fear of attracting wasps, and she saw the grounds keeper putting up a sign on the park gates that said, 'No picnics in the park until further notice'. This is terrible, thought Eleonora, what are we going to do? She sat down on the bench to have a good think about everything that had been going on, and where the wasps might be coming from. When had she seen the wasps gathering? And where had she been? Were there any common factors?
And then an idea came to her. Hmm, she thought, I wonder...
Eleonora took a detour and knocked on Mrs. Montgomery's door.
“Hello dear, what can I do for you?”
“Please can I take some samples of plants from the allotment? I have a hypothesis that I want to test out, a theory that which needs further investigation.”
“Well of course,” said Mrs. Montgomery, “But do let me know what you find.”
Eleonora picked a bunch of the plant she was most interested in, the sweet fennel, and then, to make sure she had a varied sample, she picked bunches from seven other plants too. She thanked Mrs. Montgomery, carried the samples home very carefully and went in through the back gate. “Mum, I'm home! But I'm busy in the garden.” Her mum peeped through the window and nodded that she understood. Eleonora took her notebook, pencil and ruler from her backpack, and she was ready to begin her experiment. She placed each plant in its own pot and spaced them out in a line at the end of garden, ten centimetres apart, measured using her ruler. She drew three columns in her notebook; in the first she wrote the names of the plants she had collected, in the second column she marked out the time from five minutes to thirty minutes, and at the top of the last column she wrote a heading 'number of wasps'. And then, she waited.
Quiet, still, far enough away from the plants that she wouldn't disturb the experiment, she watched, counted how many wasps came to each plant and noted the results down with her pencil, keeping a track of the passing of time with her watch. After half an hour, she had recorded twenty-five wasps visiting the sweet fennel, with a four wasps venturing over to the other plant pots, and only one wasp ignoring all of the plants completely.
“I knew it!” She said to the garden gnome, “The wasps are attracted to the sweet fennel. Although, I'd better repeat the experiment again to make sure it's not just a coincidence.” Eleonora went inside to wash her hands, and asked if she could go out again after dinner to repeat her experiment at a different time of day, with different weather conditions, to be sure of her findings.”
“Of course,” Mum said, “Just make sure you come in before it gets dark, or you won't be able to see anything!”
Eleonora repeated her experiment twice more that evening, and the results were the same each time. “Brilliant!” She said to the garden gnome, my hypothesis was correct, the wasps are only here because they are attracted to the sweet fennel plant. So all we have to do is move the plants, and our problems will be solved!” She showed her results to the garden gnome and to her mum, and they all agreed that her discovery was important and should be shared with the village, but that first she needed to go to bed and get some sleep.
When the alarm started ringing at seven o'clock the next day, Eleonora jumped out of bed and ran into her mum's room. “Wake up Mum! Today is market day, and I want to tell everyone about my experiment!” Mum sat up and gave Eleonora a hug.
“What an exciting day, we'd better hurry! Get your clothes on, eat your breakfast, brush your teeth, and then we can go, OK?”
When Eleonora and her mum arrived at the market square, things were already pretty chaotic. The baker was trying to sell bread rolls, but the wasps kept buzzing around his ears and distracting him. The grounds keeper was trying to promote her wildlife charity, but there were so many wasps on her table that nobody could pick up any leaflets. And in the middle of it all, the green grocer was selling fruit, vegetables and herbs, including pots of sweet fennel. Aha, Eleonora thought, That's where it came from in the first place!
Eleonora climbed up to the top of the town hall steps. “Can I have your attention please?” She said in a little squeaky voice. Nobody listened to her at all.
Nobody looked at her, or stopped what they were doing. Eleonora bit her lip and frowned. Her mum took a megaphone from the market manager's stall and passed it up to her daughter with an encouraging nod and a smile. Eleonora tried again. “Can I have your attention please?” This time the words boomed through the square and everybody stopped to look up at the little girl with the very big voice. “I know how to solve the problem with the wasps! You see, I figured it out. The wasps are only here because of the sweet fennel plant, all we need to do is move the plants, and the wasps will leave us alone!”
The crowd turned to look at the stall full of plants.
“And why should we listen to you? Why are you suddenly an expert on wasps?” The green grocer shouted, feeling slightly put out that her plants may have been the cause of the problem.
“Well,” Eleonora hesitated. She looked around at everybody's faces, she thought back to her experiment in the garden and said confidently, “Because I'm a scientist, I have conducted thorough research, and I have the evidence to prove it.”
Eleonora's mum gave her a big thumbs up from the side of the platform.
The baker shrugged and said, “Makes sense to me.”
“Anything to free my classroom of wasps!” Said Mrs. Montgomery.
“We could move the plant pots to the wild flower meadow!” Eleonora suggested, “Then the wasps will still have somewhere to go, without disturbing us!”
Everyone agreed that Eleonora was the scientist they needed to get them out of a sticky situation, and their best hope was to follow her advice. Mrs. Montgomery gathered up all of the sweet fennel plants and placed them carefully in a wheelbarrow. She walked through the square, down the cobbled path, across the bridge and into the wild flower meadow, all the while followed by a swarm of eager wasps, leaving the market square completely wasp free.
“We can have picnics in the park again!” Said the grounds keeper.
“I can bring out my jam tarts again!” Said Mrs. Montgomery.
Soon they had all collected up their pots of sweet fennel plants and carried them down to the wild flower meadow, and the village was peaceful once more. The green grocer reached out her arms to Eleonora and gave her a hug. “Thank you, so much, I'm sorry I doubted you”
“That's OK,” said Eleonora, “I understand. I question everything too. The important thing is to look at the evidence.”
Eleonora's mum wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “You are an excellent scientist, and I am very proud of you. Now, how about a picnic?”