A multidisciplinary project from the University of Arizona aims to encourage elementary students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by involving them in research involving their own sleep patterns.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, two researchers have instigated the “Sleep Education Program To Improve STEM Education in Elementary School,” otherwise known as the “Z-Factor.” Along the way, the project will address a real-world issue, sleep insufficiency, and its health consequences. Mobile devices will allow 500-plus fourth- and fifth-graders in the Catalina Foothills School District to track sleep patterns at home. The data collected will be routed to MySleep, an online service that will provide data analytics capabilities as well as real-time feedback and options for communications with teachers and parents.
“We believed it important to target students earlier in their educational experiences before their STEM interests and sleep habits decline,” said Michelle Perfect, an associate professor in the College of Education’s Department of Disability and Psychoeducational Studies. “The majority of proposals focus on middle school, high school or college, but we are focusing on elementary school students, which is the point before they develop worsening sleep habits and before they lose interest in STEM.”
Perfect is working with Janet Roveda, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, along with numerous other partners: the university’s College of Nursing, its Arizona Respiratory Center, the Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University and the Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation.
Teachers and families will also play roles. The educators will receive professional development to support instructional practices that align with the Next Generation Science Standards. In class the students will use sleep science lessons the researchers are developing in conjunction with the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. That curriculum could eventually be used in other schools as part of science education.
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