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Culver changes daily schedule to encourage students to get more sleep

Tom Coyne

Aug. 29, 2023

Culver Academies has shortened its daily schedule by 30 minutes this school year to give students more time to sleep, part of its ongoing effort to lessen student anxiety and create a more positive learning experience.

“We wanted to create an opportunity for students to get nine hours of sleep,” said Dan Davidge, chairman of Culver’s Wellness Education Department.

The schedule change means students are required to be at C.Q., call to quarters, a time when students are required to be in their rooms or in the library for study purposes from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The next half hour is wind down to taps, signifying time for bed. Lights out is 10:15 p.m.

In recent years, C.Q. had been 8 to 10 p.m. and taps was at 10:30 p.m. and lights out was 11 p.m.

A survey created by the National Association of Independent Schools and given to Culver Academies students showed that the students were not getting enough sleep, said Jackie Carrillo, Ph.D., dean of studies.

“The average amount of sleep students were reporting was six to seven hours a night,” Carrillo said. “They should be getting between eight and 10 hours. So our goal is to give them the chance to sleep nine hours.”

Carrillo and Davidge said students proposed the earlier C.Q.

“It started with listening to the kids,” Davidge said.

Carrillo said there are myriad reasons why students don’t get enough sleep, including homework, extracurricular activity work, social media, socializing with friends, working on college applications and other reasons.

Culver last year created the Emotional Wellness Working Group, made up of faculty members interested in finding ways to make the academic day less stressful for students.

One of the biggest changes last year in this area was an effort headed by another committee reviewing Culver’s cellphone policy, an effort led by Jen Cerny, a humanities master instructor, and Justin Pannkuk, a humanities instructor. Culver last year experimented with limits on when students could use their smartphones.

Students are now required to keep their smartphones concealed in a backpack, a purse, or some other zippered container during most of the academic day. They are not allowed to keep phones in their pockets. They are allowed limited use of phones while outside.

That change was aimed at creating a community the students, faculty and parents want by reducing distraction and increasing social interaction.

Members of Culver’s Emotional Support Services team and the Spiritual Life teams held “Together Tuesdays” at 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the dining center and ran programs, such as journaling activities, to get students talking about the stresses they were facing and to let students know help is available.

Culver also brought in speakers to talk to students about ways to relieve stress, such as cognitive scientist Laurie Santos, Ph.D., who created a class called “Psychology of the Good Life” that became the most popular class ever at Yale University. She told the students they need to work on their mental health.

Carrillo said many members of Culver’s Emotional Wellness Working Group believe encouraging students to get more sleep is an essential step in helping students.

“The group felt as though there are numerous stressors on students, but if the sleep piece isn’t in a good spot, it’s hard for students to handle anything else. When you are sleep-deprived, everything is more challenging.”

Another change aimed at helping students get more sleep is that there are no activities now before 7:30 a.m., Carrillo said. CMA honor organizations previously practiced before breakfast.

Culver officials are aware that cutting 30 minutes out of the school day will make it more challenging for clubs and academic teams that previously had met 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weeknights. Some of those groups are shortening their meeting times and meeting during part of the time usually reserved for dinner.

The dining hall is open 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for dinner.

“Everybody has to give a little bit for this to work for the well-being of our students,” Davidge said.


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