Health Team

Wondersphere creating new experience at UNC Children's Hospital

Posted September 18, 2015 6:45 p.m. EDT
Updated September 18, 2015 7:03 p.m. EDT

— When a child is sick in the hospital, and their immune system is weak, they can feel bored and lonely. Activities are limited since they can't be exposed to germs or bacteria.

Katie Stoudemire, an outreach program manager at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, brings children to a garden experience at UNC Children’s Hospital—something she calls Wondersphere.

Stoudemire also volunteers as an educator at the hospital.

“It’s the result of many years of this idea and several years of trying to get funding to make it happen,” Stoudemire said.

Stoudemire’s science specialties are plants and dirt, but it was difficult to bring lose learning experiences to younger patients.

At first, the risk of contact with bacteria in soil brought the same response from infection prevention specialist Elizabeth Walker.

“Immune compromised patients just can’t be around dirt, they just can’t,” Walker said. “She [Stoudemire] started coming up with design ideas, ‘What if we did this?’”

Grant money and private donations, totaling $50,000, helped her get engineering and design experts on the case.

They created an airtight and see-through dome. Inside the potting soil lies a venus fly trap, and paper ants.

“Our goal is to get kids excited about science,” Stoudemire said. “Using science and things like this as a tool to elicit joy and positive emotions with the kids.”

With Wondersphere, pediatric patients can also plant seeds and watch them grow, and perform plant dissections.

The patient outreach program continues to require corporate and private donations to continue offering the service.