You may have seen students around school caring for what looks like, a real baby. These grade 10 to 12 students are a part of Mrs. Ashlee Lazar’s Child Development class. The class’ major project is to be a “real” parent for a weekend. Starting from 4 PM after school Friday to 6 AM Monday morning, each student will take home a robot baby that has the same needs as a real baby would; such as changing diapers, rocking, burping the child, changing its clothes and “the worst part of the project, having to care for the baby when it starts to cry at two in the morning,” said grade 12 student Kailen Pearen.
Each baby is programmed to follow a schedule based on a study that revealed the typical needs and daily routine of an actual child. There are fifteen different schedules the baby can follow and the schedule changes each day so every student has a very different “reality”. The students will know when the baby needs something because it will start to cry and the students have four different tasks: burping the baby, changing the diaper, feeding, and rocking the child. The students have to be careful over how the child is carried and placed because if the baby’s neck goes back, sensors in the neck and the back will detect the movement and send a signal to Mrs. Lazar. If this were to occur, the student will fail the assignment, which is worth 20% of the overall class mark.
In order to make the baby stop crying, the students wear wrist bands that have sensors on them to tell them when the task has been completed. The longer the student takes to get the task done, the louder the baby will cry. “The louder the baby cries, especially in public, the more stressed, frustrated and rushed I feel to get the right task done and many people will start staring at you because you look like an inexperienced mother,” said grade 10 Abbie Robinson. At the end of the assignment, the students are asked to write a reflection on their parenting skills and whether they’d be ready to care for a child or not. “Having the fake child really made me realize how much your life changes with a baby. Always having to put the child first instead of doing the things you want to do is hard. The project really makes you open your eye to being a “real” mother, said grade 12 student Alison Dzurko.