CLAFLIN — Equipped with a real car seat, four infant simulators made their way home with Central Plains High School - Claflin students since the first of the year. A total of 17 girls in the Human Growth and Development class each spent a weekend discovering what it is like to be a parent.
With the appearance and weight of a real baby, the newly acquired simulators can cry, wet diapers, report if they’ve been shaken or neglected, and have to be fed and changed at regular intervals. The baby also makes breathing sounds when asleep and coos or cries when awake. Sometimes the "infant" is just fussy, and needs to be rocked.
After a weekend, the students were unanimous that the experience was valuable. The simulators actually weigh from 6-7 lbs.
"It was fun at the beginning," they said. But the getting up in the middle of the night was not fun, a comment that was also unanimous.
All of the teens said they would recommend the project for other students, including boys. "I’m not ready for a baby," one said. "But, it wasn’t too bad, except getting up at night."
"I’m ready to put the baby up for adoption," said another. "I’m afraid people thought I was 15 and attached to a doll," was an additional comment.
Susan Patterson, class teacher, said the girls couldn’t keep their hands off the "babies" when the newly ordered simulators arrived. The simulators were purchased after a presentation by Patterson to the USD 112 school board earlier this year on the issue of teen pregnancy and resulting problems. The board agreed, and the simulators were purchased, which cost about $4,000.
"If I can prevent one teen pregnancy, then it will have been worth it," said the teacher. The simulators are RealCare Baby IIs.
If the student responded appropriately throughout the weekend to the baby, the girl received a good grade on the activity. If the student didn’t, well, the teacher said the girl knew why they got a bad grade. A report is downloaded from the simulator by the teacher on how the student responded to the baby throughout the weekend. The simulator reports if it takes more than two minutes for the girls to respond.
The reactions of other people to the simulators were also thought provoking. "It was annoying to carry around," said the girls. Some said they got nasty looks from people. One said, "It made me feel bad. People were judgmental."
Surprisingly, some of the students said that they developed a bond with the baby. Each of the girls was allowed to name their baby, some using unique names and others using classic names such as Hope.
Plus, each of the girls made a video of their experience.
"It’s 2 a.m. and I’m tired, and I want to go to bed," said one in her video, a comment new parents can relate to.