Last week, students in the Child Development pathway were assigned infant simulators, devices meant to mimic newborn babies’ noises and needs, to take care of as a way for teenagers to experience parenting firsthand.
The RealCare baby simulators are made by the company Realityworks and were acquired through funds set aside for Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways.
Throughout the day, students’ simulators will cry periodically—the crying gets louder until the baby is attended to. To get the baby to stop crying, students must simulate the actions of bottle-feeding (the bottle has a magnetic tip), burping or changing the diaper to trigger sensors.
Jerelyn O’Keefe Lopez, the Child Development instructor, explained that aside from the basic actions, there are sensors that can detect whether the baby is being cradled properly or buckled in on moving vehicles.
Lopez discussed how she wants the simulator assignment to assist Child Development students with their future.
“[I hope it is] an awakening to really plan out when you [have a baby],” said Lopez. “A couple of days ago, we did the total costs of having a baby, and the average was about $50,000. [This task is assigned] so students can become aware of their actions as far as having unprotected sex. But hopefully, they will realize. It will be eye-opening for them as far as taking care of the baby—protecting their necks, holding them right.”
At the end of the project, each simulator has a printout for students to observe feedback on their caretaking performance.
“You are responsible for them for 18 years,” Lopez stressed.
Amidst the cacophony of wailing infants, some students have found the task stressful and anxiety-inducing.
Jasmin Ochoa (12) is one student who did not enjoy taking care of the infant simulator.
“I [did not] realize how much attention the baby would need and the time it would take away from doing my homework or continuing my everyday life,” exclaimed Ochoa. “There was always a sense of fear [for] when the baby would cry next. Even after I did [not] have the baby, I could almost hear it cry and would still feel stressed out.”
Ochoa learned that from taking care of the infant simulators, it convinced her to carefully consider parenting in the future before she is ready.
“It showed me how drastic your life could change when having to care for a baby, especially when your baby’s needs come before your own, sadly. I do think the baby prepares you for what life would look like with a kid and serves as a warning,” said Ochoa.
However, for some students who previously took Child Development 1, the simulator task is an appropriate continuation of last year’s lessons.
“This assignment [lined] up with my expectations for this class,” Brandon Ebisuya (12) shared. “After completing the Child Development 1 class, it feels almost right to put what I learned in the first year to the test in Child Development 2.”
Ebisuya also felt that taking care of the infant gave him a better understanding of parenting responsibilities.
“I believe having this simulation made me more aware of how hard it is to take care of children. It made me appreciate my parents more,” said Ebisuya.
Unfortunately, the infant simulator assignment has brought on difficulties not isolated only to Child Development students, but other classes as well. The crying disrupted class and posed issues during teachers’ lessons, resulting in the task being cut short.
AP English Literature and IB Philosophy instructor Josipa Casey spoke on some incidents that occurred during her classes. The week the babies were assigned, AP English Literature had presentations and the simulators would disrupt students mid-sentence. During the week, at least three interruptions occurred when students’ baby simulators started crying during lessons.
“There were struggles,” Casey said. “[Not] knowing the details of the assignment or what was shared with students [was difficult]. I would suggest making arrangements ahead of time and having ‘parents’ exit as quickly as possible to avoid the distractions. Early communication and making arrangements to exit class prior to the assignment would be helpful to all.”
Despite the challenges of navigating lessons with noisy simulators, Casey sees the value in tasking students to take care of the infants.
“I support the assignment and the class – I think both are great experiences for students to have,” explained Casey. “I think it [is] a great assignment. Despite the distractions, I found it entertaining to watch students’ reactions when their babies started fussing and when they shared how they could [not] sleep.”
Child Development students will be reattempting the infant simulators this Friday for a shorter caretaking duration of only the weekend instead of the entire school week.