July 16, 2012
Young children in the hospital during the summer aren’t able to go to the beach, attend summer camp or go to new, fun places. But thanks to the education team at the Aquarium of the Pacific, patients at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach get to experience the Aquarium and even see behind-the-scenes tours right from the hospital’s playrooms.
For many years volunteers from the Aquarium have been visiting the patients at Miller Children’s Hospital with ocean-inspired crafts and sea life education. In February they launched an interactive videoconferencing program at the hospital to bring the Aquarium experience to young patients.
“The interactive videoconferencing is a great way for us to connect the patients with the animals,” says Sarah Swain, education technology and media coordinator, Aquarium of the Pacific. “It isn’t quite the same as being at the Aquarium, but we are happy that we can get the patients as close as possible.”
When the Aquarium hosts an interactive videoconference event at Miller Children’s, a large television set is brought into the playroom and the patients can interact with the employees at the Aquarium while receiving their IV medications and in their hospital pajamas. Each event is different and focuses on different types of animals or on the health care needs for sea animals.
“When we met with child life specialists at Miller Children’s, we discussed the powerful connection between children and animals, especially in the healing process,” Swain said. “Many of our interactive videoconferences show our team performing procedures or exams on the animals to show the kids that they are not alone and that animals need to be taken care of, too. We hope that through these lessons, hospitalization can be less scary for the kids.”
Many of the sessions focus on health care for the sea animals: ways to measure height and weight for unique-shaped animals, the importance of vitamins, and different modes of transportation for the animals throughout the Aquarium.
“Our hope is that we show these kids that some of the same steps we take to keep our animals healthy help them relate to some of the procedures they have to face. We enjoy bringing this fun program to the children at Miller Children’s and teaching them about sea life and the importance of being healthy.”