Isolation School: Learning about Hospitals

In planning out our “school” days, we have collaborated together. The girls are more likely to sit if they are interested in the topic at hand. A asked to learn about hospitals, the history of and what they do – so here is today’s lessons on hospitals and healthcare within the United States. This is geared towards elementary school, but the links I found and share below have a lot of information that is geared toward older kids who could read them without assistance.

Definition of a hospital, from the mouths of kids

A, age 7: “It is a place where it takes care of sick people. It gives medicine and surgery.”

E, age 4: “It also gives people sleep medicine so they can go to sleep when they have to have stuff done.”


The Library of Congress is where we start our day, pouring over photos that you can access online! There are literally hundreds of pages of pictures – I combed through to find representations of different time periods.

State Hospital in St. Peter, Minn. – a postcard from the hospital dated 1910

First Portable Hospital, 1917 – Rockefeller Institute (now Rockefeller University) in New York sets up the first portable hospital. This set up was mirrored by the War Department for future field hospitals during the next two world wars. Of note, there were “bomb” exits since bombing hospitals was a practice of the Axis powers. Another feature was the openness of air as learned and practiced for tuberculosis hospitals of the time. The first thing A noticed was how closed beds were together, commenting how that is not 6 feet apart…kids are listening, folks.

Surgical Suite – The picture is dated between 1917 and 1920. While it is a picture taken in Paris, it is demonstrating American providers providing surgical care. E immediately asked where their masks were.

Mess Hall in England – During Word War I , Americans brought their ideas of a “mess hall” to the war front as an addition to the hospital construction there. We discussed that hospitals aren’t just surgery and medical wards, it is about treating the whole person, the staff and the families that visit their loved ones. Picture is dated 1918

Ellis Island Main Hospital, 1933 – For people entering Ellis Island, medical care was often necessary, especially after the long boat ride. This is the only digitized picture. But the multiple buildings shows the sheer size of it. The blueprints are available online here. We reviewed the hospital floor blueprints of floor 1 and floor 2 demonstrating the multiple wards that existed.

Empty Tuberculosis War, 1941 – An example of a medical ward

Patient Care, 1943 – Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. – This shared a 1:1 care

Portsmouth Naval Hospital, 1960 – The size of hospitals increased as resources and the population increased.

The First Hospital in the U.S. was Pennsylvania Hospital. There was on picture and shared a timeline of events leading to the development of the hospital and the building of it.

What do hospitals do?

An extensive article found on with pictures was used to review the history and what hospitals do. It covers hospitals for the entire world, so we stuck to those pertinent to the United States. There was a lot of information on here that is beyond elementary age, but I showed the pictures and gleaned information about that picture from the article to present.

What do hospitals do? What do they care for? Being that this is geared toward elementary school kids, we read basic books on the body and health from our bookshelves. We read about the digestive system, the brain, bones and heart and lungs. They were this Scholastic pack purchased a year ago and I can’t find it on the Scholastic Store now. We found a book on Amazon for under $5 titled My First Human Body book. We don’t have this book, but have other books from Dover so it would probably provide basic information that would be perfect for elementary level.

A’s notes from the day – do you notice the “I get energy by eating pasta.” note.

Printables and Activities from Scholastic

In researching hospitals and health, I found this free e-book from Scholastic with free printables which included labeling our body parts. This is more about the body than hospitals.


If you have “medical kits” or a doll with a medical kit – play with that! We do have the Fisher Price Medical kit (now on Amazon for less than $15) of which the “stethoscope” has fallen apart because it is well used. We talked about the tools and what they do.

Stethoscope – able to listen to the heart of a patient

Otoscope/Ophthalmoscope – able to look in the eyes and ears of the patient, respectively

Reflex hammer – check the reflexes of the patient, part of the neurologic examination

Thermometer – check the temperature of the patient, over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a fever.

Sphygomomanometer – AKA – Blood pressure cuff to measure blood pressure

Family Game Night

The obvious choice for “hospital day” game is Operation. We picked up this game at a Christmas sale several years ago. It is on Amazon currently for $19.99. In researching the game online, I found there is a Star Wars Operation where BB-8 is the patient. That would be cool for a Star Wars night but it doesn’t come with free shipping at the time I checked.

For older kids

If we had older children, I would probably consider sharing an episode or two of Call the Midwife to demonstrate how things were before hospitals and after from a historical perspective. There are multiple war movies where scenes could be shared showcasing a field hospital, but again these can be graphic and not suitable for all ages.

The next school day will be on food and nutrition at the request of the kiddos…on to find resources!

2 thoughts on “Isolation School: Learning about Hospitals

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *