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Kids’ TV Show on Sleep, Created by Duquesne Professor, to Air Locally and Across Country

Over the next month, TV viewers in major cities including Pittsburgh, Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Miami, Chicago, Los Angles, San Francisco, San Diego, Denver, Salt Lake City, St. Louis and other locations in 34 states can tune into a one-hour show/mini-movie focused on sleep and encouraging kids to ask experts questions. 

The Scientastic! program Are You Sleeping? Dorrmez Vous?, aimed at 8- to 13-year-olds, will air in Pittsburgh on WQED on Sunday, April 6, at 7 p.m. and repeat on Sunday, April 13, at noon. The show is part of the multifaceted multimedia science literacy efforts of Dr. John Pollock, associate professor of biological sciences at Duquesne University.

Over the next month, nearly 100 public television stations will air the episode, which was produced in partnership with David Caldwell of Planet Earth Television. Original support was provided by the Science Education Partnership Awards from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education as well from the National Science Foundation and UPMC, among other funders.

The show starts with 14-year-old Cassie staying up all night to study for a math test that is ultimately a disaster. Beginning to see that every person in her family and most of her classmates could use more sleep, Cassie asks questions: Why didn't she learn? And why do we sleep the way we do? She starts exploring the library and tracking down experts across the city, as she and her younger brother search for the answers by visiting a sleep lab, zoo, botanical gardens, an art studio, an observatory, even a cave.

Students from the Pittsburgh Public School's Creative and Performing Arts magnet school and Winchester Thurston School add their skills to the production.

Pollock, who conducts basic science research on the nervous system, also focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and health literacy. With this show, he explores issues surrounding the national trend toward the lack of sleep and its significant impact on our lives.

According to the national Centers for Disease Control, most children need about 10 hours of quality sleep a night but typically get far less-and adults are no better. The lack of quality sleep profoundly affects our capacity to learn and make decisions. "Getting enough sleep helps us be better learners, evens out our emotions and helps us stay healthy in almost every way you can imagine," noted Pollock.

Studies that Pollock and his team have conducted on Scientastic! indicate that the portrayal of inquisitive behavior positively impacts viewers-especially children-to become more confident in asking scientific questions and to be more likely to ask experts questions, improving their knowledge and their data-gathering skills.

The science is solid, but the singing and dancing add fun.

"I think if we realize that everyday science is all around us and that by exploring it, we can have even more fun knowing why things are the way they are," Pollock said. "Just like we teach kids to play baseball, soccer or some other sport, it's for the love of the game, for health and so they can enjoy it the rest of their lives. We don't expect every one of them to grow up to be an Olympian or a pro. Science is the same: learn it for the fun and love of it, and enjoy learning the rest of your life."

To learn more about the show and the science behind the program, catch a sneak preview. Later, visit www.ScientasticTV.com.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.