We aim for our children to gain a vast range of scientific knowledge through our well-planned science lessons and progressions. We also recognise the huge importance of children working scientifically by questioning, hypothesising, testing, observing, interpreting and recording data and drawing conclusions.
As part of our ambition to create curious scientists who ask and answer questions, we have started a weekly 'Ask the Scientist' forum. All children throughout school can write a scientific question to ask local scientist and governor, Jim Campbell. Our questions are collected by Jim on a weekly basis and he uses his own scientific knowledge and research to provide answers to all of the questions.
In January 2023, Charly asked 'How do dolphins sleep with one eye open and one eye closed?'
Jim answered 'That’s a good question and I can only explain it by saying that dolphins are very intelligent animals and they’ve had to evolve some clever tactics because they are mammals and breathe air but they live underwater. So they have to come up to the surface to breathe quite often and because of this they can’t have a long sleep like you or I in bed with both of our eyes closed.
But even so they have to give their brains a rest to process all of that information and what they do is they close one eye for a while to let one side of the brain go to sleep and then it wakes up to give the other eye a period of closing so that that half of the brain has a sleep. By doing that , each half of the brain has a chance to nap but with one half of the brain awake to make sure the dolphin can still come up for air and the natural functions like the heartbeat continue.
So far as I know Charly, all mammals have two halves to their brain - even humans have a left side and the right side and each one does different things, but we don’t have to turn each one off in turn, we can go to sleep properly while the subconscious looks after our heartbeat and all the other breathing actions that keep us alive without even thinking about it. Isn’t that clever?
The two sides of the brain are called hemispheres just like the world is split between the northern hemisphere and the Southern hemisphere, and animals that put half of the brain to sleep like dolphins are called uni-hemispheric sleep mammals. The word ‘uni’ is Latin for one or single, so that word just means a single hemisphere of the brain goes to sleep in those mammals - so it’s quite a descriptive word isn’t it? Can you think of any more words that start with uni?'