Child development is a class offered at East, that not only prepares students for parenting, but also for working with children. The class covers everything from prenatal, or caring for babies before they’re born, to age 12. The course prepares students for parenting, while also teaching them how to work with children, according to teacher Janel Cates.
In this class, students participate in Baby Think it Over. Baby Think It Over is a program that has been implemented in high schools across the nation, where students take home a baby doll for the weekend as an assignment.
“I think the person who invented the babies’ first motivation was to help lower the teenage pregnancy rate,” Cates said. “And since the Baby Think It Over has been in existence, the teenage pregnancy rate has gone way down.”
Students receive a grade out of 100 for the project, which is a significant amount of points considering the class is not weighted, according to sophomore Scheele Prust.
Students wear a wristband, and the wristband keeps track of the score out of 100. When the student brings back the baby for a grade on Monday morning, Cates records each student’s score. The grade is based on how well the student takes care of the baby, like how quickly the student responds to the baby’s cries or how gentle the student is with the baby.
“[Another purpose of the class] is probably also just to help teach about other subjects like Shaking Baby Syndrome,” Cates said. “You have to care for an infant and it’s very frustrating. The doll is very sensitive if the head flips back, or if you aren’t supporting the head or you shake it, or you throw it down, the electronics on the inside register how the [students] take care of it.”
When the baby begins to cry, students have two minutes to respond and care for it. Each baby has a variety of possible reasons it might be crying: feeding, diaper changing, rocking or burping. Students must move quickly to decipher what the baby is in need of.
“Most [students] say after the first few times that it cries, they can tell the difference in the cries because the baby is programmed. [The people who created the baby] took 12 real-life babies and kept track of their schedule and they programmed the babies randomly,” Cates said. “I don’t know what [each student] is getting for the weekend.”
Every student’s experience is unique, and in all of Cates’ years of teaching child development class, she has only had one student who has come back with a rough handling. This student admitted to throwing the baby down in frustration. Students are often short on sleep, and tend to get frustrated when the baby continues to cry.
“Friday night when I first got the baby I had a birthday dinner, so I had to go out in public and I got lots of weird stares,” sophomore Scheele Prust said. “[People] were either like why do you have a child or why are you carrying around a doll.”
Prust actually got into a car accident because of her baby.
“It was Sunday and I only had the baby on for another few hours. I was on my way to Mission Hills Country Club, and I was almost there,” Prust said. “While I had that baby I swear to God I was hearing things, and I could have sworn I heard it cry, so I turned my head and I looked forward and slammed straight into the car in front of me. They hit the person in front of them and the car that was in the middle was totaled.”
Although the baby doll can be difficult to deal with, students learn valuable life lessons.
“I found that the [students] who are like ‘Aw babies are so cute, I want one right now,’ realized [they] don’t want that in [their] lives. And that’s really the purpose,” Cates said. “For [students] to realize that [they] have too many things they want to do in life right now, and a baby would interrupt what [they] want to accomplish.”