In Isaac Harms's sleep studies class, students learn about sleep cycles by taking a snooze themselves.
Isaac Harms is a social studies and psychology teacher at Murray County Central High School in Minnesota. Juniors and seniors at his school can take his psychology course as an elective—and actually sleep through it, Good Morning America reports. During his unit on sleep, pupils learn about the four stages of sleep by literally sleeping. Earlier this month, Harms shared a photo of his class sleeping on Instagram, where it quickly went viral. He is also wildly popular on his campus for his lessons. Sleep experts who learned of the teacher's creative technique have since praised him for his ingenuity.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Harms said he uses his teaching technique to help make the lessons "stick". "Anytime we can experience information, I feel like it's more memorable and it sticks," he shared. "When we go into the sleep [unit], we took notes, learned the stages and benefits of sleep slowly moving into this altered state of consciousness." Of course, the students completely love his lessons. The teacher stated, "They all get excited and say, 'Seriously? We can sleep?' It's funny because my wife is a kindergarten teacher and kids hate nap time. High schoolers love it."
If you are wondering what his lessons are like, students are asked to find a comfortable spot in the classroom. Then, Harms reads the teens a 20-minute story. Once it is over, the class discusses what takes place in the body when someone falls asleep. He explained on Instagram, "After some quick breathing instructions for relaxation, I tell a scripted story with a detailed outline. Once the story is complete, students begin to wake up from their altered state of consciousness and we walk through what they remember from the story while matching it to the stages of sleep."
In this manner, his students learn what stage of sleep their body entered during the experiment based on what they can remember from the story he had read aloud. Then, they write down their observations and what they experienced during the story chronologically. Victoria Pierson, 17, is a senior in Harms's class. She reported entering stage 1 of sleep during his lesson. She said, "We all thought it was really cool because high schoolers tend to be overtired, so, we got a bit of a nap time. I honestly think he's the best teacher we have. He's very good about getting the message across rather than memorize or learn it for a test."
Sleep experts also believe the teacher's approach is powerful. Dr. Rafael Pelayo is a sleep specialist at the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center. He called Harms's lessons "an effective method of teaching sleep studies". "We've been having students fall asleep in our class and giving bonus points for many years," he shared. "This teacher has to be commended. Even when sleepy, you can only fall asleep unless you're comfortable and in a safe place. He's known for it and the kids look forward to it. They trust him." He did warn, however, that this would not work in a second-grade class. He stated, "High school kids are sleep deprived. You can only sleep if you're sleepy. That's why what this teacher is doing works, because they're not getting enough sleep."