NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital is one of forty hospitals across the five boroughs where patients are given classroom instruction through the Hospital Schools program.
"A lot of our kids are here for months at a time maybe waiting for a heart transplant or their bone marrow transplant, and so the teachers play a huge role in keeping that normalization going for them,” says Tony Millar, director of patient and family centered care and child life services at New York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.
Through lessons that follow the Common Core Learning Standards, students from Pre-K through high school learn the 3 R’s. In addition, for the past three years, they have been getting a dose of economics and financial literacy through the Council for Economic Education's Financial Fitness for Life program.
"We feel we teach the fourth R - ‘reality’, real world stuff. So you’re teaching math in the real world, about things they are going to come face to face with - budgeting, savings," says Douglas Young of Council for Economic Education.
The curriculum begins with the basics.
"We start with the little ones in Pre-K and kindergarten about needs and wants,” says teacher Fiona Schulock.
As the program progresses, teachers introduce new economic concepts, like the value of trade, by applying them to scenarios kids can relate to.
"The lessons are high interest, high motivation and hands on," says Arthur Fusco, network leader at the Hospital Schools Program.
"There’s a lot of supplementary material that includes online interactive schools so the kids really enjoy them," says Schulock.
"I like about economics because it tells us about daily life, some things that we use in daily life," says one student.
While you may think hospitalized students have plenty of things to worry about beyond the difference between goods and services or how interest works, teachers say keeping these patients focused on things they will need to know for their future may be just what the doctor ordered.
"It’s a distraction,” says teacher Robbi Mintz. “Their lives have been turned upside down so school is something they can count on. They know, ‘Oh, the teacher’s coming so things can’t be that bad because they’re still teaching me.’ And I think that comforts them. It might seem like extracurricular, something above and beyond, but for them it’s very normal.”
And that is a valuable commodity.