For most kids, summer means a break from school, vacation and attending summer camp with friends. For many of our patients who spend the summer at the hospital, camp isn’t something they get to experience. However, this summer Lurie Children’s School Services and Education Liaison team is working to change that.
Each week this summer, patients and their siblings can take part in Lurie Children’s Camp Urban Explorers, a hospital summer camp program for patients and their siblings ages 5-12 while inpatient. “This program has been a dream of mine for two years,” says Pat Ebervien, who leads the hospital-wide School Services program. “It has definitely been a team project, and it is so exciting to see it finally happen!”
Camp Urban Explorers keeps kids engaged both educationally and socially during their time at the hospital throughout the summer. “We went through dozens of themes, but ultimately we wanted to bring the forest to skyscrapers, and urban explorers is the perfect way to do that,” says Meghan Selleck, a School Liaison for the Heart Center.
“This program is educational by default,” says Rebecca Manderschied, a School Liaison for Hematology/Oncology/Stem Cell Transplantation. “Our focus is providing a camp program, but because of the nature of how we do things, kids are always learning.”
Each week, Camp Urban Explorers has a different theme such as superheroes, music, traveling, technology/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), and movies/storytelling. The School Services team has also partnered with the Shedd Aquarium and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for special themed, week-long activities such as “Animal Planet” and “Going Green!”
“Working together with our community partners like the Shedd and Nature Museum and utilizing other hospital services like our Music Therapy program, has been a great way to enhance camp’s activities for our patients and their siblings,” says Selleck.
“I love camp because of the crafts, ideas and friends,” says Grace Parli, 9, a patient-sibling camper. “It has been a great distraction and a lot of fun,” says Grace’s father, John Parli. “Spending summer break in a hospital was not on our list but camp made it much more tolerable.”
“So far this summer, patients have tie-dyed t-shirts, participated in superhero week, and many more activities,” says Ebervein. “We even take camp to the bedside and offer many of the same activities we do in the Family Life Center.”
School Services at Lurie Children’s
The School Services team is a year-round group of educators and volunteers who work with school districts and teachers to make sure students who are receiving care at Lurie Children’s can keep up-to-date on their schoolwork. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) employs two full-time teachers at the hospital, but 60% of patients do not attend CPS. This team makes sure that every child stays on-track.
Outside of coursework, a variety of guest programming includes: “Spiderman Jim,” who brings in bugs for Halloween, the Japanese Information Bureau, which teaches about life in Japan, the National Mexican Museum of Art provides crafts and education on Mexican culture, Dyson who organizes a variety of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities and many more. “Keeping minds engaged is the most important part of anything we do,” says Ebervein.