New ‘Scientastic!’ Production Highlights Importance of Sleep

Posted on August 21, 2013

A new one-hour show/mini-movie, focused on the importance of sleep, is in production for Dr. John Pollock’s Scientastic! series. The show is being produced in partnership with David Caldwell of Planet Earth Television.

Dr. John Pollock

Pollock, associate professor of biological sciences, plans to have the pilot ready to be presented to a public TV distributor in early September. His 2010 live-action Scientastic! pilot focused on regenerative medicine.

“The show focuses on the health issues surrounding the fact that nobody really gets enough sleep,” said Pollock, who has illuminated such issues as dealing with bullies and handling diabetes through TV and planetarium-shown health literacy programs.

The kid who is wildly over-reacting and frenetic, not the one with his head on the desk, is the sleep-deprived child, Pollock suggested. “When our quality of sleep gets better, we’re able to handle ourselves better throughout the day,” Pollock said.

For two weeks in July, a cast including Pittsburgh’s Creative and Performing Arts students worked on location at the Phipps Conservatory, the Allegheny Observatory, the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, Meadowcroft Village, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, UPMC’s Sleep Lab and other city locations.

The story follows Cassie, the daughter of a night-shift working astronomer, who worries about grades and studying so she stays up later than she should; her brother Dean, who keeps sneaking video games at night; and a snoring father. They explore ideas about sleep, starting with a sleep anthropologist and a look at circadian rhythms among people, plants and animals.

The show highlights others’ research that shows improved academic, athletic, behavioral and creative performance when sleep is increased.

Scientastic! initially was funded with grants to Duquesne University, including a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education, UPMC Health Plan and The Pittsburgh Foundation.  Currently, the project is funded in part by a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation to Planet Earth Television as well as UPMC, the Idea Foundry and Urban Innovation 21, among others.

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