Students at White River Valley in Child Development get the opportunity to work with “RealCare” babies.
These babies are an amazing tool developed by Rick and Mary Jurmain. The couple decided teens needed a more interactive and realistic experience after watching a news segment on students in home economics carrying eggs and sacks of flour to represent babies.
The Jurmain’s created an interactive baby that received a tremendous media response and earned many awards. This Realityworks device is now used by Family and Consumer Science teachers and students across the nation.
RealCare babies cry, coo, cough, suck and breathe. These sounds are recordings of real babies. They have the weight and look of a real baby. Students are instructed to treat the RealCare baby as a real baby.
These babies need attention. They need rocked, fed, burped and changed. Students practice these skills in class. We talk about the importance of holding and review all the various holds. Students seem to prefer the cradle hold, but the football, vertical and lap holds work well in different situations.
Students compare and debate breastfeeding versus bottle feeding and practice bottle feeding. The different techniques for burping are demonstrated and then students practice burping. During a class period we cover the Diaper Changing Procedure, a ten step process for sanitary and safe diaper changing I developed after reading through many articles on the subject.
After practicing these skills in class, students get the opportunity to take baby home and experience the realities of caring for an infant. Just as a real baby can recognize it’s main caregivers, the RealCare baby can tell who is supposed to take care of it. Students wear a bracelet with a sensor that scans baby before it can be taken care of. The sensor is secured with bracelet that snaps on, so students must wear it for the duration of the experience and only they can take care of the baby.
After carrying the RealCare baby students say things that real parents say. They say how at first it is hard to figure out what the baby needs,but after a while they can figure it out based on the differences in the cries. They talk about the struggles of waking up in the middle of the night to take care of a baby. Then the difficulty of getting back to sleep because they think they can hear the baby crying. When they bring the baby back for the last time, some are relieved and most say that they grew attached to the baby.
The program sends reports to my computer, so students are accountable for their work with the baby. Students are always eager to see how they did.
I am thankful to have this technology, so students can experience the realities of caring for an infant.
Betsy Misner has been the Family and Consumer Science, formerly Home Economics, teacher at White River Valley for over a decade. Her motivation is helping students to strive for strong, happy, healthy families and providing career pathways. Check out more of what is happening in the classroom by following her on Twitter: WRVFACS@BetsyMisner