YOUR HEALTH: A classroom you and your kids would rather avoid

ORLANDO, Florida – Parents work hard to make sure their child doesn't fall behind.

But when a child is diagnosed with cancer or another life-threatening disease, homework is the last thing on their mind.

Almost one year ago, ten-year old August Terry was diagnosed with a bone cancer called Ewing sarcoma.   Chemo, radiation, and hospital stays meant going to school was not an option.

"It was really devastating to her, as far as not being able to go to school and interact with her peers," said August's mother Wendy.

Thankfully, August is being treated at Nemours Children's Hospital, which means she got to join PedsAcademy, a first-of-its-kind, in-hospital school with 3-D printers, virtual reality, and robots.

"They make like normal school into like fun things," said August.

There are no boring worksheets, courses are tailored towards kids' needs.

"Those courses are redesigned so that our preservice teachers can understand the medical condition of the child and understand what accommodations need to happen in lesson planning," explained Megan Nickels, the PedsAcademy director.

Like eleven-year old Neal: after suffering a rare stroke, his interest in robots blossomed at PedsAcademy.

"Over here, this is what makes it walk."

He even won the "Future Engineers" award for his project in the science fair.

Nickels, an assistant professor of STEM Education at the University of Central Florida and Faculty Director of PedsAcademy, worked as an elementary school teacher before she decided to volunteer at a children's hospital in Illinois.

And it's unlike many hospital programs with up to a one to 400 teacher-student ratio.

"We have a 60 to 100 teacher student ratio," said Nickels.

That means August and Neal get an amazing education, until they're ready to head home.

PedsAcademy is available free of charge to all children up through collegiate studies, whether they're in Nemours Hospital for days or years.

Not only do patients keep up with their peers, Nickels says that after their six-month program in robotics, students are a grade advanced in mathematics.

There are other hospitals around the country interested in adopting this model in order to have their own PedsAcademy.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

 

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