Northgate students  experience ‘parenthood’ as part of a psychology exercise

Learning to care for baby on 24/7 schedule

Masked girl with baby carrier

Adelaide Berrett

Adelaide Berrett cradles her baby during naptime, while also studying Fyoder Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment “in her English class.

The age difference of the students at Northgate high school varies from around 13 to around 18. However, 105 babies attended school the week of October 18, making the age difference spike. 

Students taking psychology were required to bring a baby doll or stuffed animal everywhere with them for one week, part of an assignment centering on care and responsibility. If they were unable to bring the babies with them somewhere, the student needed to hire a babysitter to watch the child. In addition, students kept an hourly log with age-appropriate activities they did  with the “child”. 

“It’s been a very insightful experience,” Northgate freshman Oladunni Akinsola said, 

Lauren Lahey has been the psychology teacher at Northgate for seven years and has presented the baby project every year. She feels that this is a very good hands-on learning experience. 

“They have to learn how to properly care for the baby and also find babysitters if they are not capable of taking care of the baby,” Lahey said. “In other words, it gives perspective on the daily tasks a parent has to endure which is a great real world lesson. Students also learn how to properly care for a baby in many ways — how to hold, change a diaper, feed a bottle and swaddle.”

As the project came to a close, students said they were relieved to be finished with this undertaking. 

“I’m feeling good! Well, mostly relieved to not have to carry it around. By the last day, I was pretty done with having my stuffed child with me 24/7,” Junior Alana Marks said. “I can’t imagine what actual parents go through. It was a fun experience though, and fun to learn about babies since I’ve never had to before.”

Although the project is simulated to be as lifelike and grueling as possible, Lahey emphasizes to students that there is no equivalent for the real parenting experience.  “Real babies require so much more love, attention, care and finances than these baby dolls are getting,” she said. “I think it puts into perspective, even just slightly, the love and commitment it takes to be a parent. If anything I hope they come out of the project realizing the huge responsibility parenting is and also better appreciate their parents or caretakers for raising them.” 

Northgate Sentinel Editor-in-Chief Adelaide Berrett, the author of this article, participated in the psychology class “parenting” assignment. Here is what she had to say: Parenting is an extreme sport. Carrying a baby around while also trying to open lockers and doors was pretty challenging. I ended up borrowing a baby front pack from a family friend halfway through the week because I needed two hands to make it through the school day. I cannot imagine the stress it would be having a real baby who screams and feels and requires a lot more attention than a baby doll. It made me more deeply appreciate how much my parents have gone through and continue to go through to raise my siblings and I.