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Fun and games make for better learners

Four minutes of physical activity can improve behaviour in the classroom for primary school students, according to new research by Brendon Gurd.

A brief, high-intensity interval exercise, or a “FUNterval,” for Grade 2 and Grade 4 students reduced off-task behaviours like fidgeting or inattentiveness in the classroom.

“While 20 minutes of daily physical activity (DPA) is required in Ontario primary schools, there is a need for innovative and accessible ways for teachers to meet this requirement,” says Dr. Gurd, lead researcher and professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “Given the time crunch associated with the current school curriculum we thought that very brief physical activity breaks might be an interesting way to approach DPA.  We were particularly interested in what effects a brief exercise bout might have in the classroom setting.”

For the study, students were taught a class and were then given an active break, where they would perform a FUNterval, or a non-active break where they would learn about different aspects of healthy living on alternating days for three weeks. After each break, classroom observers recorded instances of off-task behaviour.  When a four minute FUNterval was completed during a break from class, there was less off-task behaviour observed in the 50 minutes following the break than if students completed a non-active break.

Working with Dr. Gurd, master’s student Jasmine Ma created the series of four-minute activities that students could complete in small spaces with no equipment.

FUNtervals involved actively acting out tasks like “making s’mores” where students would lunge to “collect firewood,” “start the fire” by crouching and exploding into a star jump and squatting and jumping to “roast the marshmallows” to make the S’more. Each activity moves through a 20-second storyline of quick, enthusiastic movements followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight intervals.

For more information on FUNtervals, follow this link. This research was published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism

Off into dream land

Canadian sleep researcher and clinical psychologist Judith Davidson (Psychology) has taken a method for treating insomnia and introduced it into primary care. The treatment takes a drug-free approach to a condition that reduces quality of life and can cause mental and physical health issues.

“I am introducing this insomnia treatment program to family doctors and other primary care providers because people need access to this treatment right away,” says Dr. Davidson, who works with the Kingston Family Health Team. “With people suffering from chronic insomnia, pharmaceuticals don’t work in the long term.”

Queen's professor Judith Davidson has won a Bright Lights Award.

Despite being considered the preferred treatment for chronic insomnia, cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is rarely available in Canada. It is a therapy that health-care professionals can learn, and 90 per cent of the first 58 patients in Dr. Davidson’s program no longer reported insomnia after 5 weeks.

“Getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t just relieve stress and make us more productive; it may help prevent medical and mental conditions that can result from long-term insomnia,” explains Dr. Davidson, who recently released a book titled Sink Into Sleep.

Dr. Davidson adds that while more and more practitioners are interested in learning CBT-I, there is still a perception that insomnia is not as important as other sleep disorders and other health conditions. “We hear a lot about sleep apnea, and treatment for that is covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. While it’s also a serious problem, more attention needs to be paid to insomnia, which is the most common sleep disorder, affecting 15 per cent of the population."

For her work in bringing insomnia treatment to primary care, Dr. Davidson was recently honoured by the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario with a Bright Lights Award for Clinical Innovations in Comprehensive Primary Care. The Bright Lights Awards recognize 12 individuals or groups for their efforts to improve the patient experience and health outcomes, and reduce health-care costs.

Along with Dr. Davidson, the Queen’s Family Health Team also earned the Accountability and Governance for Patient-Centred Care Bright Lights Award for the unique make up of its board of directors. Community members occupy a majority of the seats on the board, which ensures the patients’ voices are heard.

University community hip to the Library Square

[Library Square]
Students use the temporary Library Square outside Stauffer to study and socialize. 


Street level patios outside Stauffer Library -- a key recommendation within the Library and Archives Master Plan (LAMP) -- recently came to life for several days thanks to two urban and regional planning students.

Molly Smith (MPL’15) and Shazeen Tejani (MPL’15) worked with Library staff to set up tables and chairs outside Stauffer Library Oct. 16-18 and observe how people used the space differently with outdoor furniture in place. Ms. Smith had the idea for the research project after establishing a similar “pop-up cafe” last summer during an internship in Cornwall.

“There was a lot of tension before the project. We were worried it might fail. It was nerve wracking,” Ms. Smith says. “However, I felt really good after because people seemed to enjoy the tables and chairs.”

LAMP, approved by the Board of Trustees in 2013, envisioned the development of a new, major, public open space on campus at the intersection of Union and University. The Library Square would be an accessible and inviting place for social interaction and special events throughout the year that wouldn’t jeopardize traffic and service vehicle flow on campus.

Based on their observations and anecdotal feedback, the young researchers believe the temporary Library Square had the intended impact.

“Students appeared excited to be studying and socializing outside, especially on Thursday when the weather was nice. There aren’t many spaces like it on campus,” Ms. Tejani says. “We also found that the space accommodated people of all ages. There were students as well as professors, families and young children. It was nice to see everyone using the space on a university campus that we usually think of as having an overwhelming student presence.”

The Library was keen to support the students’ research project, says Martha Whitehead, Vice-Provost and University Librarian. The students’ research interest fit nicely with the Library’s plans to set up a few tables and chairs outside Stauffer for alumni to stop and chat during Homecoming weekend. The students worked with the Office of the University Librarian to arrange the set-up on a normal weekday, as well as on Homecoming weekend.

“It brought a whole new feeling to the corner, making it a gathering place," Ms. Whitehead says. "The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive and we're excited about the possibilities."

The students continue to analyze the data and the video they shot of the space over the three days. Their final report will examine and offer recommendations for creating permanent social gathering spaces at Stauffer Library and other locations on campus.

People who stopped by the temporary Library Square during Homecoming had the opportunity to view a new video that features students and faculty members talking about the potential impact of the Library and Archives Master Plan. See the video below and visit the LAMP website for more information about the plan.

Undergrads hone research skills during summer program

  • [Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellows]
    Principal Daniel Woolf and Vice-Principal (Research) Steven Liss with the recipients of the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship.
  • [Principal Daniel Woolf and Emily Gong]
    Principal Daniel Woolf listens as undergraduate student Emily Gong explains her research on the history of art, religion and culture in the Dunhuang Mogao Caves.
  • [Ellen O'Donoghue and Mariah Horner]
    Mariah Horner (right) explains her research on contemporary Canadian performance to fellow student Ellen O'Donoghue.
  • [Steven Liss and Jessica Metuzals]
    Undergraduate student Jessica Metuzals explains her work to Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research).
  • [Undergraduate student Michelle Tam]
    A crowd gathers around Michelle Tam as she explains her research during the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship celebration.

The university hosted a special celebration on Oct. 27 to recognize the 20 students who participated in the 2014 Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship (USSRF) program. Principal Daniel Woolf and Vice-Principal (Research) Steven Liss attended the event and congratulated the students on their accomplishments.

The USSRF program is an opportunity for continuing undergraduate students in social sciences, humanities, business and education to develop research skills under the guidance of a faculty researcher. The program provides meaningful opportunities to engage in discovery-based learning and to develop research and presentation skills. More information

Active learning classrooms making a difference

  • [Ellis Hall Peter Wolf}
    Associate Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) Peter Wolf talks about the active learning classrooms in Ellis Hall during a special event on Monday.
  • [Ellis Hall Alan Harrison]
    Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Alan Harrison speaks during the launch event for the active learning classrooms in Ellis Hall.
  • [Ellis Hall Tom Harris]
    Tom Harris, Vice-Principal (Advancement), relays stories about Drs. Russell and Katherine Morrison and the late Jack McGibbon.
  • [Ellis Hall Active Learning Classrooms]
    A booklet was available for attendees to sign and provide a message of thanks to Drs. Russell and Katherine Morrison.

A special event was held Monday to celebrate the launch of the Ellis Hall active learning classrooms and acknowledge the support of key donors.

Associate Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) Peter Wolf, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Alan Harrison and Tom Harris, Vice-Principal (Advancement) all spoke about the importance of the new classrooms and the crucial roles that Drs. Russell and Katherine Morrison and the late Jack McGibbon played in making them a reality for Queen’s University and its students.

While the Morrisons were unable to attend, a special booklet was available for attendees to sign and provide a message of thanks.

The three newly renovated active learning classrooms in Ellis Hall are designed to enhance students' learning experiences. The classrooms offer configurations and technology – such as whiteboards, moveable chairs and linked screens – that enable instructors to use different teaching and learning strategies.

A video displayed during the presentation provided rave reviews from students and teachers alike.

Resveratrol could reverse benefits of being active

Supplementing your exercise routine with resveratrol may not enhance the effects of physical activity, says Queen's researcher Brendon Gurd.

Contrary to popular belief, use of the supplement resveratrol (RSV) may not actually enhance the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Many news outlets and health blogs have long recommended RSV as a complement to exercise and to enhance performance. However, results from a study by Queen’s researcher Brendon Gurd suggest that RSV may actually impede the body’s response to training.

“The easiest way to experience the benefits of physical activity is to be physically active,” says Dr. Gurd, a professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “The efficacy of RSV at improving metabolic and cardiovascular functions is not as profound as was once thought.”

Resveratrol occurs naturally in the skin of red grapes and has long been associated with the health benefits connected to a Mediterranean-style diet. Recently, it’s become possible to purchase RSV supplements, which are often marketed as “exercise mimics.”

Sixteen participants who engaged in less than three hours of aerobic exercise per week at the time of enrolment were asked to perform HIIT three times per week for four weeks. During this time, participants were administered daily doses of either RSV or a placebo.

Results after the four-week study showed that RSV supplementation may actually oppose the effects of exercise alone. In fact, the placebo group showed an increase in some of the benefits associated with physical activity as opposed to the group taking RSV whose physical fitness didn’t improve.

“The results we saw suggest that concurrent exercise training and RSV supplementation may alter the body’s normal training response induced by low-volume HIIT,” says Dr. Gurd. “The data set we recorded during this study clearly demonstrates that RSV supplementation doesn’t augment training, but may impair the affect it has on the body.”

Results observed by the team question the ability of RSV to act as an exercise-enhancing supplement and highlight the need for further research. This research was published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

Ambassadors address Arctic issues

Two Queen’s University students are hoping to make an impact on the Arctic as they attend the first ever Arctic Council Youth Ambassador Summit taking place in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Kristine O’Rielly (MASc) and Erinn Drage (Artsci’17) are two of only 60 young adults across Canada chosen to take part in the summit.

Hosted by Global Vision from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, the summit will see ambassadors from the southern part of Canada and youth from the north meet to discuss Arctic resource development, sustainable circumpolar communities and Arctic shipping.

Erinn Drage (l) and Kristine O'Rielly are joining 60 Canadian students in Iqaluit.

“Two summers ago I spent time in the Arctic as part of the Students on Ice program,” explains Ms. O’Rielly. “Spending time there, I really became passionate about the polar region. Sustainability is a big issue in the Arctic and this summit will give me an opportunity to talk about solutions and policy with other students across Canada.”

The summit provides students a chance to learn more about the challenges in the North and discuss issues facing students living in Northern communities with their peers.

“I have been to Nunavik (Arctic Quebec) – I taught health to high school students,” says Ms. Drage. “I want to attend the summit and focus on social issues in the north, of which health issues are a big part. As an environmental scientist, environmental issues are important to me too and I want to apply what I’ve been learning in class at this summit.”

Recommendations from the summit will be presented to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister for the Arctic Council, and other senior government officials. This gives both Ms. O’Rielly and Ms. Drage extra motivation.

“We are the future of this country,” says Ms. Drage. “The impact of our current practices on the environment will be seen more in our generation than any other. We need to make changes, we need to protect our future.”

“The Arctic is the fastest changing environment in the world and we need to protect that,” says Ms. O’Rielly. “Companies are going to have to listen to the First Nation point of view and we can provide ideas for policies to make that happen. The Arctic is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting the world for future generations.”

Building bridges with music

While he may be a household name in Cuba, singer-songwriter Carlos Varela may not be as familiar to Canadians. But when he takes to the stage at the Isabel on Oct. 30 that could change. Mr. Varela, who has shared stages with artists like Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt, has been described as “one of Cuba’s most talented and emblematic artists of his generation. He received an honorary degree from Queen’s University in June 2014.

Carlos Varela will be performing at the Isabel on Oct. 30. (Photo Supplied)

“He represents the generation who inherited – but didn’t build – the Cuban revolution,” explains Karen Dubinsky, a professor in the Departments of History and Global Development Studies, who helped organize the concert. “He has been able to express the sense of dissatisfaction and frustration of an entire generation, but he has done it with poetry and metaphor.”

Born in Havana in 1963, Varela taught himself to play guitar at age 15. After attending university, he joined the politically infused Nueva Trova music movement and began performing in theatres and small venues throughout Cuba. In 1989, he gave a legendary concert at the renowned Chaplin Theatre where he debuted his first album. Soon after, he became the first artist of his generation to sell out the 5,000-seat Karl Marx Theatre for three consecutive nights.He now has nine albums under his belt.

“Varela is a spokesperson for bridging conflict, both on and off the island (of Cuba), which is considerable,” says Dr. Dubinsky. “For a long time, Cubans living off the island were seen as cowards and traitors. Nobody thinks like that anymore. And Varela is in a remarkable position of being just as popular off the island as he is in his home country. He illustrates how you can bridge gaps with music in a way that you can’t by just giving speeches.”

Mr. Varela, who lives in Havana, is also the subject of a new book. The English edition of My Havana: The Musical City of Carlos Varela will launch in conjunction with Varela’s performances in Kingston and Toronto. The anthology was edited by Maria Caridad Cumana, Xenia Reloba and by Dr. Dubinsky, and is published by University of Toronto Press. It includes contributions from Cuban and U.S. music scholars, and musician Jackson Browne, among others.  

Carlos Varela performs at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Oct. 30. He will be accompanied by jazz pianist Aldo López Gavilán, and by bassist Julio Cesar El Checo. All songs will be performed in Spanish, but English translation will be provided.  Advanced tickets are $15 for general admission $10 for students.

More information is available on the Isabel’s website

Supporting the ‘chance of a lifetime’

[Robyn Finley]
 Robyn Finley (Artsci’15) was able to complete an internship at UNAIDS in Geneva, Switzerland thanks to the support of the Principal’s Student Initiatives Fund. (University Communications)
Queen's in the World

Robyn Finley (Artsci’15) had the “chance of a lifetime” when she was offered an internship this past summer at UNAIDS, the umbrella organization at the United Nations that coordinates worldwide efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.

The problem was that it was an unpaid internship.

And it was in Geneva, Switzerland, one of the most expensive places in the world to live.

Fortunately, the Global Development Studies student was able to find the support that would make the dream a reality.

Ms. Finley found out about the Principal’s Student Initiatives Fund, through the Office of the Principal, applied and received a grant that would help see her through.

While she felt good about receiving the support from her school, she also says she learned more than she could have expected through the internship. She’s now looking to share what she has learned with her classmates and the greater Queen’s community.

The road to the internship had its beginnings in a pair of classes she took last year – Cross-Cultural Research Methods (DEVS 300) and AIDS, Power and Poverty (DEVS 320).

Ms. Finley says she became fascinated with what she was learning in the AIDS course and wanted to apply what she was learning to a project in Research Methods.

“The disease is an epidemic but there is so much more to it than, say, malaria where it is a cause-and-effect kind of medical problem. There are so many social determinants that factor into the HIV epidemic,” she says. “It’ s social, it’s political, it’s groundbreaking and revolutionary in a lot of ways because it makes people question gender, sexuality, identity and all these things, and I think it has moved a lot of discourse forward.”

Ms. Finley looked at different treatment plans in Africa and how the disease is being tackled and settled on a project in Malawi that focused on pregnant women. The difference with this program was that the women take one pill a day rather than the standard treatment of a cocktail of medications taken on a timed basis throughout the day, something Ms. Finley says fits modern Western society much better than it does African.

However, in her research she found a gap within the program as pregnant women were not being given a choice to start the one pill a day regimen. There was no other option. The project was framed as being beneficial to babies as it reduced the risk of vertically acquiring HIV, but in so doing, limited mothers’ autonomy to choose the treatment plan that was right for them.

Wanting to be sure, she contacted the gender team at UNAIDS. The reply she received was that this was exactly the type of issue the team is trying to tackle. They also asked her to send them her project when it was complete.

So she got down to work.

“The project was the hardest thing I’ve ever done for school. I looked at the computer for four full days on the last draft alone,” she says. “It was intense.”

UNAIDS then invited her to apply for the internship, which she did in January. The she waited… and waited a bit more.

“At the beginning of April, classes are done, I’m getting ready for exams and I was eating breakfast one morning when I got an email from the UN asking me to move to Geneva three weeks later and start this internship at UNAIDS with the gender team,” Ms. Finley recalls.

What followed was a whirlwind. She had to cancel her summer job, find a place to live in a city she had never visited and somehow find the funds that would allow her to pursue her dream and be able to return to school for her final year.

However, she had the backing of the Global Development Studies program and the Office of the Principal.

As a result, she gained a learning experience she couldn’t have imagined. On her first day she was responsible for crafting the gender and equality team’s press release regarding the mass kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by extremists.

While she considered a UN job to be the Holy Grail in Global Development Studies, it is far from glorious. There are long hours of basic grunt work, the issues on which your work, but over which you have no control, can consume you, there’s a high divorce rate among employees and the pursuit of a work-life balance is never-ending.

The Principal’s Student Initiatives Fund supports student participation in projects devoted to the principles of personal growth and/or community service. Projects should provide educational opportunities such as participation in competitions, symposia, conferences, festivals and community development projects. For more information contact Christine Berga.

Connecting at Engineering & Technology Fair

  • [Engineering & Technology Fair]
    A group of Queen's students gather around a representative from Aviya.
  • [Engineering & Technology Fair]
    Grant Hall was abuzz with the sounds of students connecting with recruiters from a wide range of employers.
  • [Engineering & Technology Fair]
    A Queen's student speaks with a representative from Geo. A. Kelson Company at the Engineering & Technology Fair.
  • [Engineering & Technology Fair]
    Representatives from Aecon connect with Queen's students at the Engineering & Technology Fair.
  • [Engineering & Technology Fair]
    A Queen's student gets information about Alberici Constructors.

Crowds of Queen's University students filled Grant Hall on Tuesday to take in the Engineering & Technology Fair, which offered connections to close to 40 employers from a wide range of industries and sectors. The event, hosted by Career Services, continues Wednesday from 10:30 am-3:30 pm


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