Kids love tracking their sleep patterns
A study that teaches tweens and teens about the importance of sleep sounds like a parent's dream, but it was Beachlands School kids that were over the moon with the project.
One hundred and 30 students in years seven and eight have become scientists at Beachlands School, using the scientific method to answer self-developed research questions about sleep habits by tracking and analysing their own sleep.
Teacher Imogen Kennedy says a highlight for the students in the project was visiting the Fisher & Paykel Healthcare prototyping labs and manufacturing facilities in East Tamaki, where they saw ‘real-world science’ first-hand using the scientific method to answer questions.
“They loved it and were able to get an understanding of what jobs are like in industry. It’s inspiring these kids to be interested in science and see it as an actual pathway they could go down.”
Students learn about the sleep lab at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare.
Scientists and engineers also visited Beachlands School and Imogen says this broke the students' stereotypical views of scientists. “They could see what a scientist looks like in the real world - that scientists are young and cool and hip.”
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare makes a range of products for respiratory and acute care as well as devices for treating sleep apnoea (a condition in which a person stops breathing while sleeping), which are used in over 100 countries worldwide.
The company regularly offers project ideas, technical guidance and mentors for the South Auckland Participatory Science Platform (known as 'SouthSci') and the projects SouthSci supports - including the sleep study at Beachlands.
Scientists enjoy sharing their work
During the visit to Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, scientists and engineers set up models and working machinery for the students to experience.
“It was awesome to see their faces light up as they realised their classroom science work connected with the work being performed in our sophisticated laboratories,” says Susyn Kelly, an initiator of the study and a Clinical Research Scientist at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.
“In our day-to-day work we don’t get instant results but with kids you get immediate feedback that something is interesting. The project was really satisfying for us as scientists because the students might see it as a career pathway.”
Engineer showing students the knitting machine, similar to the ones used in Nike Flyknit shoes.
In the initial stage of the project students recorded their own sleep patterns for five weeks using sleep diaries.
“We taught them about analysing data and pre-loaded their knowledge with tasks so they became really interested in finding out more,” says Imogen.
The study then became really exciting when the school used the funding it had received from SouthSci to buy each student a data tracker, called an actigraphy watch, so that they could all gather their own sleep data.
Sleep important for hauora
Susyn says Intermediate level is a good age for kids to learn about how important sleep is before their sleep patterns change in their teens.
“Getting kids to recognise that sleep has such a big influence on them and their wellbeing is important. You can have a good day, be happy and productive if you prioritise your sleep environment to get enough sleep each night.”
The students built model bedrooms to show the best conditions for a good night's sleep.
The students were challenged to identify ways they could achieve better sleep and improve their sleep environment at home.
“They came up with some amazing ideas like developing hauora wellbeing, listening to calming music, meditation, going for a walk to release endorphins, having a relaxing tea, and, of course, avoiding smart devices before bed,” says Imogen, who is a Leader for Kāhui Ako STEM (Community of Learning for science, technology, engineering, maths).
She says it was also the best engagement on home learning she’s seen, with the students building their own model bedrooms that reflected a good sleep environment. “The whole motivation and hands on learning was really cool and engaged 95% of the cohort.”
Imogen says she would recommend to other teachers to do a sleep study with their class, and that it could be done using sleep diaries, if data trackers aren’t available.
“There is lots of stuff about sleep science that is easily available. You could do it with a year five and six cohort as well.”
The school and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare plan to follow up with the class in 2020 to see what lasting impressions they have around sleep. The trackers will also be used to undertake another project connected to student hauora in 2020, and the sleep study is planned to be repeated in 2021 with a new year seven and eight cohort.
Students prototyping a sleeping aid.
About the project
This project is run by Beachlands School in partnership with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare through the South Auckland Participatory Science Platform.
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