News and Events

Hospitalized Pediatric Patients Start the School Year in Rambam Classrooms

Publication Date: 9/3/2019

More than 100 hospitalized children and youth participated in classes on the first day of school in classrooms at Rambam’s Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital. Several new educational components are being introduced this year, including a sailing class for the older teens.

(L-R): Lila (one of the teachers) and Elana Levi speak with Alina, a patient attending the school in Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital. Photography: Nathaniel Ayzik, Spokesperson's Office, Rambam HCC.(L-R): Lila (one of the teachers) and Elana Levi speak with Alina, a patient attending the school in Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital. Photography: Nathaniel Ayzik, Spokesperson's Office, Rambam HCC.

The school year in Israel starts on September 1st. While most students began the year in their regular classrooms, hospitalized children faced a different reality. Thanks to the Haifa-based BRACHA Education Center, the young patients in Rambam Health Care Campus’ Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital can keep up with their peers, attending classes in the hospital’s designated school classrooms—each of which, are equipped by the Ministry of Education.

“This school within a hospital offers a solution for hospitalized children between the ages of 3–21 in accordance with what each child can handle, and in coordination with their teachers from their regular schools,” explains Elana Levi, Director of BRACHA, which serves Bnei Zion, Rambam, and Carmel hospitals and is named for their Hebrew abbreviations. Like most other Israeli schools, the BRACHA schools adhere to the standards and curricula set by the Ministry of Education. Classrooms for sick children have been around for more than 30 years, and Levi has been managing the program for the last 17 years.

There are nine classrooms in Rambam’s pediatric hospital, located in departments such as Surgery, Oncology, Dialysis, Eating Disorders, and more, and each class has the same group of teachers throughout the school year. The same class subjects are offered in each classroom, and include subjects like math, English, computers, robotics, cinema, and so on. “We will do whatever we can to help keep the children from falling behind in school,” notes Levi. Whenever a child joins the class, regardless of their age, the teacher is required to create a schedule for them in the school’s computer system, which Levi can then track.

In addition to regular classes, there are also enrichment activities, such as a weekly photography club. Last year, a photography exhibit was held, displaying the photos taken by the club’s young participants. Plans are also in place this year to offer the children instruction in home economics while they are hospitalized.

This year, a number of new educational components have been added at Rambam, some unique to Northern Israel’s only referral hospital. The psychiatric unit now has classroom space for up to 12 children. One classroom is located just outside of the unit, and within the unit itself, two hospital rooms have been converted into another classroom. As with the school’s other classrooms, a team of teachers is responsible for each of the classes mentioned above. In the unit for eating disorders, classes are offered three days a week to students aged 15–18. The teachers work closely with the unit’s staff members to ensure that they remain aware of each patient’s situation. Levi hopes that patients suffering from bulimia will take part in the new sailing course, described below. “We try to offer whatever they want to learn,” she says.

Also being offered for the first time is a agriculture class. A teacher will come in three times a week to teach the children how to build planting beds and create gardens. Another exciting new course this year is sailing, which will be open to 15–17 year-olds. In the framework of this course, the students will learn how to kayak and how to swim. “This course, which is offered twice a week, will also give them the opportunity to understand who they are and what they are capable of doing,” notes Levi, adding, “the students learn about cooperation and are responsible for completing tasks and projects. They also have exams.” The course teacher is trained in physical education and is certified to teach water sports. Students are also encouraged to go to Rambam’s onsite gym several times a week, and learn about the importance of physical education and exercise.

As part of another successful initiative within the school, Levi and her team also partner closely with the medical teams to help the kids learn about their illnesses and the medical procedures they must undergo. There are films and other visual and interactive tools, and booklets are given to each child, where everything is explained in terminology that they can easily understand. These booklets—available in both Hebrew and Arabic—also contain written exercises that encourage these young patients to share their thoughts and feelings about what they are experiencing.

Levi has a message for all of her students who started the school year in the hospital. “Good luck to all of you. I wish you good health, and hope that you won’t return to us. But if you do, we are always here for you.”