The Coast News Group
Students take home baby dolls to try out being a parent. Pictured from left: Mayra Ramos, Jasmine Viveros, Meiani Pati, Tania Lopez, Vonjone Williams, and Elizabeth Vaca. Courtesy photo

Take home assignment lets teens try their hand at parenthood

OCEANSIDE — This semester Oceanside High School students had an opportunity to take home a baby for the weekend and try their hand at being a mom or dad. 

Students were sent home with a mechanized baby doll that is programmed to need all the care of a real baby and only respond to care from the student wearing a corresponding chip-embedded bracelet.

The take home baby doll is an optional assignment for first semester ROP Developmental Psychology of Children students. First semester students learn child development theory. Continuing second semester students have an opportunity to apply their skills and intern at daycare centers.

The take home baby assignment is a lesson within the unit on teen pregnancy. Birth control, responsible choices and demands of parenting are discussed in the unit.

“There are quite a few pregnant students at our school,” instructor Nancy Martinelli said. “The purpose of the unit is to have kids be more realistic on choices they make. There is a need for it.”

The hands-on lesson with the take home baby has a big impact on students.

At first the students only see how cute the baby dolls appear.

After 63 hours with the baby doll, students are at the classroom door first thing Monday morning to return the dolls.

“Ninety-eight percent of the students are waiting by the door Monday morning,” Martinelli said. “They said it was the hardest thing they ever did in their life.”

The teacher controls the mechanized dolls from her computer. She can program their level of fussiness and schedule in quiet time when the dolls will not make demands.

“They demand attention 24/7,” Martinelli said. “I can schedule in three quiet times they can have during the simulation. I never schedule quiet time at night.”

The baby dolls cry a lot. Students must figure out if the baby needs changing, feeding, burping or cuddling. If students do not care for the baby properly the doll will shut down.

The computer chip in the student bracelet and doll deliver instant online feedback to the teacher. She stays in touch with students over the weekend through school e-mail, and occasionally needs to shut the dolls off for students who become overwhelmed with the assignment of taking care of an infant.

“It’s good to know what babies are really like,” Martinelli said. “At first they just see the cuteness and don’t see the hard work. Real babies can’t be programmed for quiet time. They don’t work that way.”

The mechanized baby dolls are supplied through the Assistance League of North Coast, or ALNC. Teachers can check the dolls out from the league to use with their students.

The mission of ALNC is to give hands-on help to enrich the lives of those in need.

If you would like to use the dolls in your education program contact Beth Mason at (760) 729-1767.