By Claudia Romeo
A longstanding, infamous junior year tradition at WHS, known as the Baby Project, requires juniors to become teen parents for one week. Teachers assign healthy ‘babies,’ ‘babies’ with birth defects, ‘babies’ with fetal alcohol syndrome and twins or even triplets, all represented by a sack of flour or a doll that must be carried everywhere.
If a student forgets to bring the 'baby' to school or is spotted without it, points are deducted from the overall project grade. Being a teen mother or father is nothing to be taken lightly, however many students see this project as busy work, an easy ‘A,’ or nothing but a joke. While the Baby Project's purpose is sincere, it fails to teach students the harsh reality of teen parenting.
Many important financial parental responsibilities are not covered in the Baby Project. Although the Baby Project includes a finance sheet, it is not an accurate representation of real life costs. Sick babies or babies with birth defects have a financial factor that could never be recreated in a school simulation. For mothers who choose not to breastfeed, the cost of formula is astronomical, not to mention the cost of diapers, childcare, gear, clothes, toys and books. The health teachers’ shopping lists only skims the surface of the true needs of a baby.
In addition, not once will a sack of flour need to be fed, burped, changed, rocked to sleep or comforted if they cry. Having a child comes with immense stress and responsibility that cannot be feigned. Will a sack of flour or a doll really disrupt a good night's sleep the way a real live baby does?
Some health teachers require juniors to attend occasional mock doctor appointments but the real-life stress of missing work and school, doctor co-pays and trying to find someone to watch your child because the daycare center will not accept it due to a fever or illness will never be fully experienced with the Baby Project.
Being a parent is a life-long commitment that can not be recreated in one week with a sack of flour or a doll. The Baby Project is ineffective in teaching students the responsibilities that come with being a parent and schools should search for more impactful alternatives; perhaps having actual teen parents speak to students would be a more beneficial experience in the long run.