Day 3 of #ChallengeOnNaturePhotography – hawk moth at verbena

Day 3 of #ChallengeOnNaturePhotography. Continuing with the theme of amazing things in our midst. This is a pic I took…
Posted by Jonathan Eisen on Monday, December 21, 2015

Science based decision making in education: sleep and school start times in #DavisCA and beyond

In September of last year I wrote a brief post about science and decision making in schools: Nice letter to the editor in the Davis Enterprise taking on school district’s anti-science tone.  I include it below since it is very relevant to this post.

I assume many people heard about the recently released report from the American Academy of Pediatrics where they recommended high school classes start later in the morning than most do right now.  See for example: Let Them Sleep: AAP Recommends Delaying Start Times of Middle and High Schools to Combat Teen Sleep Deprivation.  And this report was covered in all sorts of newsy and bloggy places.   See for example, Amy Graff’s article in SFGate and Deborah Netburn in the LA Times.  Overall, the argument presented by the AAP makes sense and seems supported by scientific fundings.  And they go through a lot of scientific reasons for their recommendations.

Alas, Winfred Roberson, superintendant of the Davis, CA schools (also known as the DJUSD) told the Davis Enterprise that the schools here would not be making any changes in response to this report:

“While DJUSD won’t be modifying start times, our role as an educational institution can be to find ways to support our students by giving them the tools that will help them to think through, make adjustments and prioritize their competing forces that may be cutting into the recommended sleep time,” Roberson said. “These are life skills we are helping to build that will help students to function even after graduation.”

And I had missed out on this quote, thankfully, but became aware of it when my wife showed me this letter by Steve Carlip in the Davis Enterprise today:  Don’t ignore the science Davis Enterprise.   I quote from it below:

The superintendent’s response, as reported in Tuesday’s Enterprise, was to simply ignore the science. Instead, he said, the schools will help student “build life skills” to “prioritize their competing forces that may be cutting into the recommended sleep time.” 

Really? The high school is going to teach students to control their circadian rhythms? It’s going to give them the “life skills” to regulate the timing of their bodies’ secretion of melatonin? It will educate them to overcome biological sleep-wake phase delay by sheer force of will?

He completely nailed it here.  I hope Winfred Roberson and the Davis School district rethink their attitude towards scientific studies.

Today I found out that the Davis School Board may actually be listening to the science.  For the next school board meeting which is February 5 there is an agenda item on this topic c. Update on the Formation of a DJUSD Sleep Study Committee. The description of the agenda item is as follows:

In August 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a scientific sleep study report that recommended an 8:30 am start time for schools, which would allow secondary students more time to sleep.  The report generated community discussions and concerns since Davis secondary schools start before 8:30 am.
In response, the superintendent initiated the formation of a Sleep Study Committee (made up of students, teachers, counselors, parent/community members and administrators) to examine the benefits and logistical challenges of an earlier school start.    

This update is a report of the formation of the Sleep Study Committee and their charge.  For reiteration, at this time, staff is not offering recommendations about a modified start time.  Staff will wait to review the work of the Sleep Study Committee before offering formal recommendations to the Board. 

So I started digging around for more on the topic and found some things worth reading  But the most interesting thing I found was that there has been a discussion about this exact issue in the county where I grew up: Montgomery County Maryland.  Some of the articles about this area listed below:

It seems to me that Davis, CA really needs to consider this as a possibility.  It could help students in many ways and seems to be a relatively easy (though not free of course) way to improve the lives and learning of students in our town.  I am thrilled that the Board is bringing the topic up again.  Any examples out there of places that have shifted start times based on the AAP recommendation would be great (and what happened …). 

See some responses on Twitter:


Fun times with whooping cough in #DavisCA

Just got this email.  I have removed the specific sender / facility since that does not seem needed for my purposes here.  I have replaced the name of the site with “Our Facility”. Anyway – thought some people would be interested in the things that can happen when too many people in your community do not vaccinate their kids.

From: Office Administration 
Subject: Possible Exposure to Whooping Cough – Pertussis
Date: June 25, 2014 at 12:55:59 PM PDT
To: Office Administration 

Dear Parent or Guardian,
Our Facility was informed this morning that a student who has been attending a class since 6/16/14 has been diagnosed with pertussis (whooping cough). The child is no longer attending the class and is under a medical care.
If you feel you or your child may have been exposed, watch carefully for symptoms in the next 1-2 weeks, and consult a physician if any occur. Here is some pertinent information regarding pertussis (whooping cough):
Pertussis can spread through the air when people cough. It often starts like a common cold which gets worse and worse over 1-2 weeks. People with pertussis have coughing spells that may last several seconds. As they catch their breath at the end of each coughing spell, they may gasp loudly (“whoop”) and vomit or choke.
The vaccine usually protects against pertussis, but sometimes even immunized children can get pertussis. Pertussis is treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics can also prevent the spread of pertussis to others.
Activities that may help stop the spread of pertussis include:
  • The exclusion of all pertussis cases from classes until they have taken the first five days of the antibiotic.
  • The administration of antibiotics for babies, pregnant women and other high risk contacts of pertussis cases as well as consideration of antibiotic administration for other household or close contacts to prevent the further spread of pertussis.
  • The administration of another dose of DTaP vaccine to babies and Tdap for older children who are not up to date on their vaccine series.
Please know that Our Facility is taking every precaution in this matter and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Office Staff

Gulp – a good book for those into, well, our insides

On Saturday I went into downtown Davis, CA with my kids to get them haircuts and then to get a present for one of their friends for a birthday party. We decided to get a present at Avid Reader downtown. And after looking for the gift and for some books for my kids I decided I wanted to check out their science section. And I came up with a present for myself too


And then started reading it. It is quite good.

On top of reading the book I have been checking out some interviews with the author Mary Roach. Quite entertaining. For example I was pointed to one on Twitter:


And I then remembered I had been pointed to another via email a while back by Steve Faith at UC Davis:  A Brief Tour Of The Alimentary Canal, From Spit To You Know What : Shots – Health News : NPR.
Still not done with the book but if you want a great read about our insides – I recommend Gulp by Mary Roach very highly.

PLOTS ( is coming to #DavisCA

DIY Science & Citizen Science & Open Science all rolled into one -PLOTS is coming to Davis, CA & UC Davis.  See  Davis – for more information.

Hmm … City of Davis definition of microorganism needs work

From City of Davis Guide to Composting

MICROORGANISM microscopic plants and animals.They exist in soil for the purpose of breaking down organic matter into basic mineral elements.They include bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, algae, protozoa, yeast, germs, ground pearls, and nematodes.

Gonna have to get them to work on this …

Davis Enterprise really doing a rocking job covering #OccupyuUCDavis Story

The Davis Enterprise has really come through in the clutch with diverse coverage of the pepper spraying incident as well as diverse, interesting and sometimes unusual letters and comments.  Here are some links from them of interest:

News Stories

Some other articles:


AP Video report from #OccupyUCDavis Camp Tuesday AM

Tuesday AM at #OccupyUCDavis camp

Tuesday AM I went over to check out the OccupyUCDavis encampment that had been set up overnight.  It had grown quite a bit since I had left the night before.  I wandered around taking some pictures and also dropped off a case of homemade pluot jam to donate.  While I was there I witnessed a government meeting to discuss various rules and issues.  The first discussion was a concern about smoking.  The second discussion was a reminder / encouragement to behave appropriately (i.e., no violence, illegal acts, etc).  Seemed to be going pretty well. 
Lots of TV crews were wandering around again but not much else seemed to be happening. The geodesic dome was up.  I then headed off to work on the other side of campus (work – I remember what that was).  Pics are below.

Posted by Picasa