Explore the "Children's School" at CHOA - KMSP-TV

FOX 5 Medical Team

Explore the "Children's School" at CHOA

Posted: Updated:
ATLANTA -

It's a small thing: being able to go to school. But it's a big deal, when you can't go.

That's the reality facing hundreds of sick and injured patients at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's three hospitals. And that's why a colorful little school tucked on the ground floor of the Egleston campus is making such a big difference.

Here, the teachers – all former public school educators like Erin Blonshine – collect their students from their hospital rooms before each lesson.

On the day we visited, Blonshine came to find Mattie, an 8 year old in a robe and fluffy slippers, who is back at Children's again with complications from a 2008 liver transplant.

Blonshine says, "Oh, she's precious, she's so cute. She's soft-spoken, and she's excited about school…"

Olivia – a Paulding county second grader battling a blood cancer – is excited, too. Her teacher, Uroni Macon, says Olivia – who is wearing a hospital mask to her lesson - is bright, and eager, "And she's on top of it. She's reading above grade level,"

Macon has been assigned to teach children with blood cancers, hemophilia, and sickle cell disease. Many have missed a lot of class, struggling with intense pain episodes that can be difficult to control. Often, they feel isolated from their classmates because of their illness. Macon says, "You do get attached. Sometimes, you know, you hate when they come in. Because you know they're here for pain reasons."

But for the next hour, something magical happens. Teacher Erin Blonshine says, "We kind of push the IV poles aside, and we move on, and we go on as we naturally would." Patients leave behind the hospital and become students again. And Children's school program coordinator Ginger Armstrong says, for 60-minutes the kids feel "normal" again, which, Armstrong says, is incredibly important. She explains, "One thing that happens with children, is when they are in medical setting, that they don't have any control over, school is one little thing that they can still feel like they have some control over."

That sense of control is what makes this little school work. Instead of being told what to do, Olivia gets to choose what she wants learn. Today, she's working on telling time, and solving math problems. Macon says that gives kids ownership, which they love. Macon says, "So the next day you go up to get them, and they're ready to go, they're ready they're dressed, and they're ready to learn."

Erin Blonshine knows the uncertainty her transplant students like Mattie are facing. Five years ago, in her early twenties, and facing a relapse of Leukemia, Blonshine underwent a bone marrow transplant at Emory University Hospital. It taught her a lot about life.

Blonshine says, "When you're in the hospital, you have people invading your privacy all the time, and asking questions and you don't get to always control what's happening with your body. But when they do come down here, they can control what's happening with their mind."

And that's the secret of this school. For one hour, anything seems possible. The teachers feel like they are a part of their kids journey toward healing. Blonshine says "It's neat to get to sort of follow along with them. Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes it's emotional. For them and they're parents. But, it's cool to get to be a part of that."

The Children's Healthcare of Atlanta school program works with each student's school – to help kids transition back into their classroom once they leave the hospital.

Ginger Armstrong says many of their former students come back to visit. That's a day all of the teachers at this little school look forward to.

  • More Health NewsMore>>

  • FOX Medical Team

    Are You A Workaholic?

    Are You A Workaholic?

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 7:33 AM EDT2014-04-22 11:33:25 GMT
    A lot of us work long hours, but workaholics really struggle to call it quits.
    A lot of us work long hours, but workaholics really struggle to call it quits.

  • Performer offers incredible music for NICU newborns

    Performer offers incredible music for NICU newborns

    Monday, April 21 2014 6:15 PM EDT2014-04-21 22:15:42 GMT
    As a cellist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Jennifer Humphreys usually performs for packed houses of classical music buffs, not one-little sleeping baby out in a hallway at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.
    As a cellist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Jennifer Humphreys usually performs for packed houses of classical music buffs, not one-little sleeping baby out in a hallway at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.
  • Kraft recalls 96,000 pounds of Oscar Mayer wieners

    Kraft recalls 96,000 pounds of Oscar Mayer wieners

    Monday, April 21 2014 5:40 AM EDT2014-04-21 09:40:37 GMT
    Kraft Foods is recalling 96,000 pounds of its Oscar Mayer wieners because they may mistakenly contain cheese.
    Kraft Foods is recalling 96,000 pounds of its Oscar Mayer wieners because they may mistakenly contain cheese.
  • Good Day ArchiveMore>>

  • Dine Out for Project Open Hand

    Dine Out for Project Open Hand

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:39 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:39:13 GMT
    Head out to the a participating restaurant to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of Dining Out For Life.
    Head out to the a participating restaurant to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of Dining Out For Life.
  • Fox 5 I-Team

    Cheap vs. Frugal

    Cheap vs. Frugal

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:15 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:15:25 GMT
    There is nothing wrong with saving a buck, but can you cross the line? There is a difference between being cheap and being frugal.
    There is nothing wrong with saving a buck, but can you cross the line? There is a difference between being cheap and being frugal.
  • Mountain Festival Brings Music, Dancing To Dahlonega Square

    Mountain Festival Brings Music, Dancing To Dahlonega Square

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:08 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:08:13 GMT
    The North Georgia town of Dahlonega is best-known for its gold. But this weekend, music will bring more than 50,000 people to the historic town square.
    The North Georgia town of Dahlonega is best-known for its gold. But this weekend, music will bring more than 50,000 people to the historic town square.
  • CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL HEROESMore>>

  • Hospital Heroes

    Hospital Heroes

    Children's Miracle Network Hospitals raises funds for 170 children's hospitals across the United States and Canada.  Click here for more on our local heroes!
Powered by WorldNow

KMSP-TV
11358 Viking Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Phone: (952) 944-9999
Fax: (952) 942-0455

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices