Glancing at the clock, you groan. After three consecutive late nights, you hoped this one would differ with those from earlier this week in that you would not fight an uphill battle against sleep. Feeling the pressure of three major projects, National History Day (NHD), Science Fair and a research paper, and their importance towards your respective grades, you rest your head on the paper-covered table, wishing for all this disorganized frenzy to finish once and for all.
Although these projects positively contribute to social studies, science and English classes, respectively, the timing of them adds more stress to an already demanding curriculum and unnecessarily derails a healthy sleep schedule.
With three major projects due in a limited amount of time, some students’ stress levels skyrocket, seriously affecting health. In a survey conducted for the American Psychological Association (APA) on 1,950 adults and 1,018 teens aged 13-17 who reside in the U.S., stress levels well exceeded the healthy levels.
On a 10-point scale, a “healthy” stress level should place around 3.9, according to the APA. However, during school months, students, on average, reported a 5.8. More than one-third of teens reported feeling overwhelmed, depressed, sad and/or tired and fatigued, and 23 percent reported skipping a meal because of stress. Three weighty projects all coinciding adds to the “normal” stress from weekly homework, quizzes and tests, which can have damaging consequences.
From the heightened stress levels during the first semesters’ projects comes another sneaky health concern: sleep deprivation. Undeniably, the risks associated with lack of sleep demonstrate the importance of it. Such risks include decline in mental sharpness and impaired judgement. In a study conducted at St. Lawrence University, students who pulled an all nighter averaged a 2.9 out of 4 grade point average (GPA), whereas students who worked on school assignments and maintained a healthy sleep schedule earned a 3.1 out of 4 GPA. With the amount of work each project requires, sleep and grades face unnecessary risk.
While these projects contribute to an unhealthy student lifestyle, they prove themselves an important part of the curriculum they’re based in. To NHD coordinator and junior high history teacher Mrs. Leslie Porges, NHD helps prepare students for the future.
“NHD give students the tools they need to succeed in college and quite truthfully beyond. It is a remarkably good vehicle for teaching those skills. Once you get to college, every class has research papers. Those who paid attention when we taught the process will have no problems,” Mrs. Porges said. “People need to remember why we are all here. It isn’t just to torture children, although that is a perk,” she joked.
Individually the projects don’t take up too much time the way they’re stretched over two quarters. However, when mixed together, the time spent on each project adds up, a problem the department chairs have noticed and are working to address. Mrs. Maryanne Hurtado, chair of the English department, and other chairs met with administration to attempt to come up with a way to incorporate the projects into each other to lighten the workload.
One method they had discussed was to mix the NHD and research paper sources and tested it on the current sophomore class. Although it didn’t work quite the way they hoped, the departments plan on using what they learned from this year to work on future projects.
“We’re going to have [students] start off by getting their sources for NHD first before we start working on the English paper. That way, students will have many sources to take for the paper,” Mrs. Hurtado said.
Overall, NHD, Science Fair and the research paper contribute to the well-rounded education provided at AHS. However, in order to protect the mental and in-turn physical health of students, the spacing of each project needs a more efficient schedule. By fixing the project schedule to allow more time for each, both students’ health and appreciation for their projects will change for the better.