UCF Partners with Nemours for PedsAcademy
By Nicole Dudenhoefer ’17
Medical advances are increasing the chances for children to overcome chronic illnesses. But many children who survive end up significantly behind their peers in education and career potential, as hospitals lack the teaching staff and resources to provide each child with meaningful and effective instruction. To address this issue, more than 50 UCF student-teachers and faculty have partnered with healthcare professionals to create UCF’s PedsAcademy [pronounced “peeds,” after pediatrics] at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Lake Nona.
Since the program’s launch in August, these educators have been providing tailored instruction, both academic and medical. These lessons allow young patients to take a break from being strictly a patient and become immersed in learning through virtual reality, robotics, 3D printers and other high-tech learning tools. And PedsAcademy is the world’s first pediatric school program that uses curriculum specifically tailored to a child’s disease. Teaching methods and lessons are based on research into cognitive development and the effects of specific diseases on learning, so patients are taught using learning tools conducive to their physical limitations and sensory conditions.
“Our purpose is to provide a rich, meaningful, educational experience so [kids with chronic illnesses] aren’t just keeping pace with their healthy, typically developing peers, but that they’re actually getting extraordinary educational opportunities while in the hospital,” says Megan Nickels, the PedsAcademy faculty director and a UCF assistant professor of STEM education.
On an average day, up to 60 PedsAcademy children receive at least three hours of instruction. The program doesn’t just benefit children receiving care at Nemours — siblings of patients can take advantage of the educational services too.