Welcome from Dr. Nickels

Greetings Families, Colleagues and Student Interns,

It is a distinct pleasure to welcome you to PedsAcademy at Nemours Children’s Hospital—the world’s first pediatric school program designed to provide children in hospitals with extraordinary, research-backed educational opportunities specific to their respective disease or condition.

Building PedsAcademy has been a dream of mine since I first walked into a children’s hospital as a volunteer teacher in 2012. At that time, I became aware of an entire population of children who were, by all accounts, invisible in the broader field of education. While every child’s education is important, our aim through PedsAcademy is to reduce educational inequality by improving the quality of education available to children for whom both health and education are already severely diminished and for whom the betterment of each is an absolute requirement of justice—children with chronic and complex medical issues. Our curriculum and teaching methods in PedsAcademy are primarily based in robotics and immersive virtual reality interventions, including the development of avatars for the children and other virtual humans to address their disease or condition specific needs such as neurocognitive deficit, physiological positioning, and socio-emotional health. Our aim is to go far beyond the minimum, to provide an extraordinary education experience at PedsAcademy so that children re-enter their school with a leg up as critical problem solvers, flexible thinkers, and irrepressible learners.

We’re also big! This is big, is an important phrase for UCF. As one of the largest universities in the nation, we are able to harness the power of scale to bring 54 UCF affiliated faculty and students on site to run PedsAcademy. PedsAcademy includes a semester long cohort internship for pre-service elementary teachers in order to prepare them to teach specifically to this population of students. This high impact experience intentionally combines several well-accepted high-impact practices that result in deeper learning and greater engagement, in addition to gaining real-world experience and developing professional competencies. Beyond our pre-service teachers, PedsAcademy provides an opportunity for UCF students from all colleges to explore the possibilities of collaboration with non-traditional school settings, vulnerable populations, and healthcare providers to discover how they can align themselves and their career aspirations with meaningful work now and in the future. Students from across UCF colleges gain an immersive view of educating high-needs populations through clinical teaching experience, academic courses, individual and collaborative research projects, and educational seminars provided by UCF and Nemours’ faculty.

Thank you for your role in helping making PedsAcademy a success.

Sincerely,

Megan Nickels, Ph.D.

Faculty Director, UCF’s PedsAcademy at Nemours Children’s Hospital
Assistant Professor, STEM Education
College of Community Innovation and Education
School of Teacher Education
Assistant Professor, STEM Education
College of Medicine
Clinical Sciences
University of Central Florida