For many children, weekends are a time for games, hobbies and spending time with family and friends. But for children stuck in hospital – especially those with chronic illnesses – the weekend is a drag. With Play Specialists signing off on Friday afternoons and their resources packed away until Monday, children are left with a lot of time to fill and not many ways to fill it.
Nine-year-old Annabelle is no stranger to this predicament. From age six, she was already coming up with ways to keep her bright and curious mind busy during long stays in hospital. Along with her toothbrush and pjs, she’d take craft supplies and books with her to help pass the time and distract her from the challenges of being unwell. It wasn’t long before Annabelle realised how she could help the other kids in her ward by sharing her materials and inviting them to join in her activities.
Ever industrious, Annabelle came up with the idea of the STEAM Pack – a pack filled with science books and activities as well as art supplies, which could be kept at a hospital for kids to use whenever they wanted. Driven by her love of all things STEM and her desire to make time in hospital more fun for all kids, Annabelle generously started saving her pocket money to kit out her STEAM Packs with pens, pencils and craft supplies that could be used for science activities. With her parents agreeing to match the money she contributed, Annabelle started to build her packs.
‘I have chosen things I have enjoyed working on myself over the last five years and wanted to share with others too,’ Annabelle told us. ‘STEAM Education covers a lot of areas and I find that space ticks every box for it too. I wanted to include things that would interest children in STEAM and space as most children my age or younger don’t experience this until they are 11+ at Secondary School, which I think is a shame, as it’s so much fun.’
Annabelle’s first goal is to donate one pack to each of the three hospitals that have helped take care of her this past year. Keen to make her packs as engaging as possible, Annabelle started looking for donations, handing out flyers she’d made and visiting stalls at science events. We at Curved House Kids are thrilled that ESERO donated copies of the Mars Diary, which Annabelle has completed at home. Annabelle’s mum Amanda has told us that the format of the Space and Mars Diaries made them perfect for those times when Annabelle wasn’t well.
‘The Mars Diary works well for us as you can pick it up and work on as much as you can, it doesn’t have to all be completed at once and you can work at your own pace,’ Amanda said. ‘Due to her health, Annabelle may only be able to work for short periods and we can stop and start as she needs to. The Diary format allows us to recap and then continue with a seamless topic.’
In addition to the Mars Diaries and the craft supplies that Annabelle has donated herself, the packs contain AR cards from AugmentifyIt, teaching packs and space resources from Science and Technology Facilities Council (the organisation behind our upcoming Deep Space Diary which, we hear, Annabelle is very excited about. She’s been following the development of the James Webb Space Telescope for years!), fun space education books and pencils from the European Space Agency and a Guinness World Record Book Set.
‘Our Friends at AugmentifyIt had spread the word about the STEAM Packs for us and [the Guinness World Record Book Sets] arrived out of the blue! They are lovely books and I’ve added them to my Christmas wish list now too!’ Annabelle said.
Annabelle is busily designing her own worksheets to add to each of the packs too. ‘I am going to make my own table top experiment sheets for the children to do as well, and include everything they need to do them,’ she told us. ‘Everything will be there for them to share and enjoy. The idea is the main STEAM pack will be used again and again, the consumables can be used or given as rewards for bravery for the children having procedures.’
At Mars Diary HQ, we feel honoured to have our diaries included in Annabelle’s STEAM Packs, and are inspired by how she is using her passion for space to help bring more happiness into hospitals.
‘We hope the packs help the children and their parents have a better time during their hospital stay. It might even light the spark that heads some of them towards a STEAM career,’ Annabelle said. We’re sure it will, Annabelle. We can’t think of a better Junior Science Ambassador than you!
To donate to Annabelle’s STEAM packs, get in touch with her via @pack_steam on Twitter, or contact Mars Diary HQ on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll forward your email on to Amanda. You don’t have to be a STEM organisation to help. Donations of art and craft supplies – even stationary like pencils, erasers and coloured paper – would be very much appreciated!