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School Program Uses Realistic Dolls to Teach Teens Parental Responsibilities

April 20, 2007 — About 20 years ago, a couple in Eau Claire, Wis., was discussing a school program where students were assigned an egg or a sack of flour to carry around all day to simulate the experience of caring for a baby.
According to the story, Rich Jurmain said he could do better than that. His wife said, "Go ahead," and he went to his workshop and came up with the prototype for what is now the Baby Think It Over school program.
Seventeen of those babies are now in Gloria Salas-Lindquist's Family Relations/Child Care class at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School. Mary Gleason of the Rotary Club of St. Thomas and club President Paul Doumeng brought four more of the unique babies to the eighth grade class Friday.
Gleason initiated the program in public schools, including Charlotte Amalie High School and Bertha C. Boschulte Junior High School, starting in 2002. The babies are expensive, about $600, and that's not counting their accouterments such as diapers, bottles, car seats and strollers. They come in both genders and all ethnicities. Some of the babies now come with disabilities, such as babies suffering from fetal-alcohol syndrome.
Realityworks, which markets the babies, says the cries from the afflicted babies are "disturbingly accurate." They were recorded from actual FAS infants. They serve as a serious reminder of why alcohol should never be consumed during pregnancy.
The 22 students sat in the darkened classroom Friday watching wide-eyed as a video detailed how to care for the babies they would soon be tending. Some said they looked forward to being temporary mothers or fathers. (There are four boys in the class.) Others expressed caution.
"I think it will be a bit stressful," said eighth grader Ginelle Beaupierre. She conceded, however, that the experience was worth it. "It teaches you not to have sexual intercourse young, and to realize how important it is to have two parents."
Doumeng asked the class why the boys should take the program. "To take responsibility, too," said one girl. Doumeng agreed: "As a dad, I can tell you children need two parents." The boys took the baby as it was passed around, handling it with as much tenderness as the girls, but with more grins.
Te'Andra Richardson, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, took it all in stride. "I have one younger sister and five younger brothers," she said. "But it's a good time to learn more."
The Baby Think It Over dolls all have distinctive cries, Gleason said. "The kids must deal with it according to the cry," she said. "As in when they're hungry, wet, in need of burping or just wanting some comforting. They also coo when they are happy and cough when they are sick."
The students will not take the babies home, Salas-Lindquist said. "They will each have a baby for two consecutive days," she said. "They will pick up the babies in my classroom before school at 7:30 a.m., and return them at the close of the school day."
The students are monitored on the care they give the virtual infants. "Everything goes into a tape that is in the computer, and I print out the results at the end of each day," Salas-Lindquist said. "The tape will show me how well the baby was handled: if it was shaken, if it was neglected, how many times it was fed, rocked, changed or burped."
The students wear a wrist band with a contact point attached to the back of the baby. They have two minutes when the baby expresses a need to figure out if it needs changing, a bottle or burping, Salas-Lindquist said. They are graded on their response time, and how well they care for their surrogate children.
"The kids have different reactions to the experience," Salas-Lindquist said. "One student said 'never again.' She was so excited she had come (to class) early, but it proved too much for her. Other students bring clothes from home for their babies, and don't want to give them back."
Salas-Lindquist sends out notices asking other Cancryn teachers to monitor the students for the program, which will run from May 1 through May 11. They can be excused from class for two minutes to take care of the baby's needs. "One student last year was heard cursing the baby in one of her classes," she said. "I can't have verbal abuse. I made the student stay after school and arrange baby clothes."
Speaking later, Gleason said students had learned some hard lessons during the course of the programs. When one student brought her baby back to school, the printout showed it had cried all night. She said her father had screamed at her to make it shut up and had put it in a closet all night. As a result of that experience, the father was investigated for child abuse.
The program has proven successful in deterring children from teenage pregnancy in her class, Salas-Lindquist said. "Cancryn has had a 96 percent success rate," she said. "The year 2005 was the anniversary of the first set of 50 Cancryn students who took the program that graduated from CAHS. There Were only two students reported pregnant."
Single motherhood — especially teen motherhood — in the Virgin Islands is the most significant indicator for the likelihood of impaired health and development, reduced academic achievement and living at low-income or poverty levels for mother and child, according to the 2006 Kids Count Data Book.
The teen birth rate — the number of births to teenagers between 15 and 19 per 1,000 females in this group — has decreased in the V.I. since 1997 when it was 64.0. In 2004 the rate was 47.3, compared to the U.S. national average of 41.2, according to Kids Count.
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April 20, 2007 -- About 20 years ago, a couple in Eau Claire, Wis., was discussing a school program where students were assigned an egg or a sack of flour to carry around all day to simulate the experience of caring for a baby.
According to the story, Rich Jurmain said he could do better than that. His wife said, "Go ahead," and he went to his workshop and came up with the prototype for what is now the Baby Think It Over school program.
Seventeen of those babies are now in Gloria Salas-Lindquist's Family Relations/Child Care class at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School. Mary Gleason of the Rotary Club of St. Thomas and club President Paul Doumeng brought four more of the unique babies to the eighth grade class Friday.
Gleason initiated the program in public schools, including Charlotte Amalie High School and Bertha C. Boschulte Junior High School, starting in 2002. The babies are expensive, about $600, and that's not counting their accouterments such as diapers, bottles, car seats and strollers. They come in both genders and all ethnicities. Some of the babies now come with disabilities, such as babies suffering from fetal-alcohol syndrome.
Realityworks, which markets the babies, says the cries from the afflicted babies are "disturbingly accurate." They were recorded from actual FAS infants. They serve as a serious reminder of why alcohol should never be consumed during pregnancy.
The 22 students sat in the darkened classroom Friday watching wide-eyed as a video detailed how to care for the babies they would soon be tending. Some said they looked forward to being temporary mothers or fathers. (There are four boys in the class.) Others expressed caution.
"I think it will be a bit stressful," said eighth grader Ginelle Beaupierre. She conceded, however, that the experience was worth it. "It teaches you not to have sexual intercourse young, and to realize how important it is to have two parents."
Doumeng asked the class why the boys should take the program. "To take responsibility, too," said one girl. Doumeng agreed: "As a dad, I can tell you children need two parents." The boys took the baby as it was passed around, handling it with as much tenderness as the girls, but with more grins.
Te'Andra Richardson, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, took it all in stride. "I have one younger sister and five younger brothers," she said. "But it's a good time to learn more."
The Baby Think It Over dolls all have distinctive cries, Gleason said. "The kids must deal with it according to the cry," she said. "As in when they're hungry, wet, in need of burping or just wanting some comforting. They also coo when they are happy and cough when they are sick."
The students will not take the babies home, Salas-Lindquist said. "They will each have a baby for two consecutive days," she said. "They will pick up the babies in my classroom before school at 7:30 a.m., and return them at the close of the school day."
The students are monitored on the care they give the virtual infants. "Everything goes into a tape that is in the computer, and I print out the results at the end of each day," Salas-Lindquist said. "The tape will show me how well the baby was handled: if it was shaken, if it was neglected, how many times it was fed, rocked, changed or burped."
The students wear a wrist band with a contact point attached to the back of the baby. They have two minutes when the baby expresses a need to figure out if it needs changing, a bottle or burping, Salas-Lindquist said. They are graded on their response time, and how well they care for their surrogate children.
"The kids have different reactions to the experience," Salas-Lindquist said. "One student said 'never again.' She was so excited she had come (to class) early, but it proved too much for her. Other students bring clothes from home for their babies, and don't want to give them back."
Salas-Lindquist sends out notices asking other Cancryn teachers to monitor the students for the program, which will run from May 1 through May 11. They can be excused from class for two minutes to take care of the baby's needs. "One student last year was heard cursing the baby in one of her classes," she said. "I can't have verbal abuse. I made the student stay after school and arrange baby clothes."
Speaking later, Gleason said students had learned some hard lessons during the course of the programs. When one student brought her baby back to school, the printout showed it had cried all night. She said her father had screamed at her to make it shut up and had put it in a closet all night. As a result of that experience, the father was investigated for child abuse.
The program has proven successful in deterring children from teenage pregnancy in her class, Salas-Lindquist said. "Cancryn has had a 96 percent success rate," she said. "The year 2005 was the anniversary of the first set of 50 Cancryn students who took the program that graduated from CAHS. There Were only two students reported pregnant."
Single motherhood -- especially teen motherhood -- in the Virgin Islands is the most significant indicator for the likelihood of impaired health and development, reduced academic achievement and living at low-income or poverty levels for mother and child, according to the 2006 Kids Count Data Book.
The teen birth rate -- the number of births to teenagers between 15 and 19 per 1,000 females in this group -- has decreased in the V.I. since 1997 when it was 64.0. In 2004 the rate was 47.3, compared to the U.S. national average of 41.2, according to Kids Count.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.