The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have joined together to inspire student achievement in science through a new initiative, the Bright Schools Competition. Announced yesterday, the Bright Schools Competition will draw students into an exploration of the link between light and sleep and how it influences student health and performance.

“We are thrilled to be working with NSTA to bring this program to middle school science classrooms across the country,” says David Cloud, CEO at the National Sleep Foundation, in a release. “By helping students discover how light exposure influences sleep and impacts health and performance, the Bright Schools Competition enables science exploration for a very practical and important subject.”

NSTA executive director David Evans, PhD, says, “Teachers are always in search of new ideas and creative ways to motivate their students in science. The Bright Schools Competition is a great teaching tool for educators, providing important lessons about real science through critical thinking and cooperative learning. We are delighted to be collaborating with the National Sleep Foundation and we look forward to sharing this competition with our vast network of teachers.”

Through the Bright Schools Competition, which will award nearly $40,000 in prizes, students in grades 6-8 located in the United States and Canada, are asked to explore the correlation between light and sleep using scientific inquiry or engineering design concepts. Students will measure the amount of light available in the classroom, compare and analyze light measurements, and create and submit an original project that demonstrates their understanding of the effects of light and sleep on student health and performance.

The competition concept draws upon the latest research on how light influences sleep and wake cycles.

“Recent studies demonstrate that exposure to natural and other forms of short-wavelength light throughout the day can help students sleep better and perform better,” says Natalie Dautovich, the NSF’s environmental fellow.

The site helps teams get started with a robust resource section that includes information about the correlation between light and sleep, lesson plans, and much more. Competition registration will open this August and submissions will be accepted until January 29, 2016. Fifty national finalists will be announced March 2016 and final winners will be announced April 2016.