THE biology lab has traditionally been the place where youngsters get to grips with the delicate facts about the birds and the bees.
Now researchers at Goldsmiths College, London, have discovered it is the perfect setting for pupils to learn how to mix with the opposite sex on a social and emotional level.
A one-year experiment in two London comprehensives selected 41 pairs of 11 and 12-year-old boys who had previously avoided girls at all costs.
They were forced to pair up with two female classmates for practical and written science work. The boys also took part in feed-back sessions where they were encouraged to share their feelings about other members of the group.
The control groups were three paralel Year 7 classes where the pupils were allowed to sit and work with their own sex.
At the end of the year, not only did the boys and girls in the first group feel more confident about working with the other sex and more "liked" by them, they also enjoyed science lessons far more.
Brian Matthews, a lecturer at Goldsmiths' Department of Educational Studies, devised the study. He said: "Being put together with children they didn't know of the opposite sex was not easy for many of them, but it taught them social skills that will stay with them forever.
"They already knew the opposite sex thinks differently. But being forced to talk and learn together has forced them to understand each other better."