Blue Marble, MD

Capture your pole!!! Take a good long look at your IV pole. Does it look like all the other IV poles you've seen in the halls or other people's rooms? Why not make it yours?

This is just one of many ideas presented in Blue Marble, MD ("My Design"), a hands-on, minds-on bedside design kit to enable young patients, ages six to sixteen, to think like problem-solvers - like designers - while undergoing treatment for serious illnesses or injuries.

"The kit is a tool for communication, interaction, and creativity to keep up with the important task of healing the whole patient, not just the illness," says Missy Julian-Fox, board chairman of Blue Marble, a Children's Center for Design and Invention.

An interest in design runs in Julian-Fox's family. Her brother is designer Alexander Julian, who serves as honorary board chair. Mr. Julian's experience as designer, inventor, and philanthropist has helped Blue Marble grow from a good idea into a working institution without walls, able to inspire young people and their families to explore their creative potential.

Blue Marble gathered and organized the expert advice of educators, designers, hospital administrators, doctors, nurses, child life specialists, parents, and children to pose the question, "What is it that Blue Marble can develop that will put hospitalized kids' creativity and critical thinking skills to use?" Under the leadership of Haig Khachatoorian, Head of Industrial Design at N.C. State University School of Design and Blue Marble board member, the Blue Marble Concept Committee used the research and collaborated with a team of graduate students at the School of Design. The result is a colorful, child-size, sturdy attaché case filled with springboard project ideas and materials - Blue Marble, MD.

Research brought to light four primary issues hospitalized children must deal with: loss of control, alienation, boredom, and fear. Blue Marble, MD provides opportunities for children to take control over some aspects of their lives, i.e. their time and immediate environment, to tap into their creativity, which has been shown to enhance the healing process by taking the mind into a positive, regenerating place, and it offers new ways to communicate.

"One very important thing it [Blue Marble, MD] has done is to break down some communication barriers," says Jenny Spry, Nurse Manager at UNC Children's Hospital where the kit was field-tested. "You walk into the room, and right away you can go, 'Let me see what you've done here,' and 'Wow, that's beautiful.' It gives you an immediate common ground."

Many parents, whose children were in the hospital during the field test, shared their gratitude for having all these materials put together with projects to guide them. They shared their feelings of being in "crisis mode" where even the most creative parents have a hard time thinking about anything beyond the trauma they are all experiencing. And nurses were thrilled to offer something fun instead of painful.

Besides funding from the N.C. Arts Council, the Alexander Julian Foundation for Aesthetic Appreciation and Understanding, and Glaxo Wellcome, support in the form of manpower will be offered by Durham Exchange Club Industries, a community-based rehabilitation program. Mentally and physically handicapped people working to establish themselves as productive, independent citizens will be paid to assemble the Blue Marble kits. And a need for a large number of kits is anticipated. Results of the field-testing showed that Blue Marble, MD is a powerful means of helping transport children out of their illness by opening the doors
to their imagination and creativity. The word is out and the orders are coming in. And hospitals rooms in pediatric wings will never be the same. Call (919) 967-5197 for information.