NOVA scienceNOW: Sleep
Sleep and Memory
Have you ever wondered how a skill, such as
playing the piano, typing, swimming, or playing a video game, is learned and
becomes nearly automatic? In this activity you'll practice tying a knot
that may be new to you, and then you'll investigate the roles practice and
sleep play in learning and improving your knot-tying ability.
With your partner, choose one
knot on your "Knot Tying with a Twist" handout for both of you to
learn to tie. Circle the knot you chose.
Use the illustrations and follow
the knot directions to help you learn the steps. Your teacher or another adult
Once you and your partner have
learned how to tie the knot, each of you should accurately tie your own knot 5
Next, you and your partner will take turns timing and
scoring (simultaneously) each other's knot tying. Use the timer to find
the time it takes to tie the knot. To score, give one point for each tying step
accurately accomplished; then total the points. A perfect score for each knot
equals five points. Now record your own total time (to the nearest second ) and
score for Trial 1.
Trial 1: Time: __________ Score:__________
Do not practice tying your knot
again until you retest yourself right before going to bed that same evening.
Have someone time you. Record your time and score for Trial 2.
Trial 2: Time: __________ Score:__________
The next morning, retest your
knot-tying ability. (Your teacher will tell you if this test is to be performed
before class or during class.) Record this time and score for Trial 3.
3: Time: __________ Score:__________
Write your answers on a separate sheet of
About how many hours did you
sleep last night? Answers will vary.
Check one of the following
- I slept
well, and I am well rested.
- I slept
somewhere in between well and poorly, and I'm somewhat rested.
- I slept
poorly, and I am tired.
Put your three knot-tying times
and scores in order, from lowest to highest.
Consider whether the times and
scores suggest that sleep played a role in learning in relation to your
knot-tying ability. What factors other than sleep may have influenced results?
Describe the role that practice
played in helping you master your knot. While practicing tying your knot, what
sorts of questions did you ask yourself? What thoughts did you have that may
have helped you be successful?
Analyze the activity and suggest
controls that could be included to improve the reliability of results. Then,
propose an experiment with additional controls that would increase the accuracy
of the results.