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Born to teach teens

Students get a lesson in parenting with teacher-monitored dolls that whine, get hungry, burp and cry.

February 02, 2008|By Joseph Serna

Corona del Mar High School junior Kelsie Eggergluss thought pretending to be a teenage parent would be easy. She took her baby to the book store, to the gym, and she slept with it in her room.

But this isn’t the traditional school lesson about parenting, in which teens call a bag of flour or an egg wrapped in cloth a “baby.”

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“I didn’t take into mind that it wakes up during the night,” a sleep-deprived Kelsie said.

No, this baby is $500, 7 pounds and attention-hungry.

As part of a sociology/family life class, pairs of students share a baby doll, learning what it’s like to be a teenage parent and the responsibility that could come with sex.

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These 10 babies whine, get hungry, burp, mess their diapers and best — or worst — of all cry. A lot. In the middle of the night.

“Just knowing it was there, I didn’t know how to sleep,” Kelsie said.

Most students said they woke up at least twice at night to quiet their kids.

Teacher John Emme controls the babies from his computer in the class, where he can make them cry or settle down. For this three-day, two-night activity, he runs them on auto-baby.

The plastic dolls are packed with sensors. Students get points if they rock the babies, and change, burp and feed them as needed. Lifelike cries tell students it’s time.

“You never knew what the baby wanted. You had to try everything before it would stop crying,” Shannon McCroskey said.

“It comes before you. If you have to go to the bathroom and the baby is crying, you have to take care of the baby first,” Kelly Cooper said.

Students were marked down if they shook the baby, did not give it proper head support, positioned it incorrectly or handled it roughly. It was all recorded by the doll’s sensors.

“I caught myself leaning over at stop signs making sure the baby was supported,” Kelsie said.

Many students said their mothers were giddy with babies in the house and wanted to take care of them. But as with real kids, these dolls know who their mother or father is. Students had wrist bands with sensors that matched their dolls. The dolls wouldn’t respond to diaper changes, burpings (they took 45 minutes) or feedings unless that sensor was close.

“It was fun when it was quiet,” said Sierra van Heel. “It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I can’t imagine going through that.”

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