WEST NEWBURY — Superintendent Justin Bartholomew and Principal Jonathan Seymour announce that Pentucket Regional High School seniors recently took part in a project designed to simulate taking care of a young child.
From March 2 to 7, students in teacher Ruth Beaton’s AP Psychology class took care of sock babies as if they were actual children as part of the Developmental Psychology Unit.
Students created their babies in class from socks, buttons, and other materials, named them, and chose their age and gender.
“Just like in a maternity ward, we had a day where the babies were born,” Beaton said.
The project was designed to present some of these challenges of parenthood while reminding students of the principles of Developmental Psychology. Students analyzed aspects including gender roles, stranger anxiety, temperament, attachment styles and more.
Students also were encouraged to reflect upon parenting styles, including the authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved styles, and decide which one they wanted to use to parent their sock baby.
“The way you parent affects the development of a child. How you take care of a baby really affects how they are going to grow up and develop and how healthy they will be. We had to think about all these things and what we would do if these babies were real children,” student Brianna Whyman from Merrimac said.
For the duration of the five days, students provided their sock babies with around-the-clock care, ensuring their health and wellbeing. The sock babies could not be left unattended. Students were required to bring them to each one of their classes in an appropriate baby carrier. Carriers could be handmade, donated, or purchased.
Teachers, staff, and administrators outside of Beaton’s class were aware of the assignment and assisted in supervising the students’ parenting skills throughout the school day.
If students could not supervise their sock baby during or after school, they had to enlist a qualified caretaker, whether it be a friend, parent, or older sibling.
“All of my friends, including those not in the class, really enjoyed the project and felt like they were a part of it. Even if they just helped babysit while I stepped away for a minute,” said student Gavyn Otero from Groveland.
Students also considered the needs of typical children, such as feeding, playtime, and naps. Many students socialized the babies together and put them down for naps during lunch.
“The whole school was in on the project and all the teachers knew. Babies were everywhere; in the hallways and classrooms. The project wasn’t just in this class. It was all day everywhere,” student Nora Landry from West Newbury said.
Many students went above and beyond the requirements for the assignment by creating cribs and handmade clothing, including one student who crotched a bathing suit.
“Parenting is difficult, time-consuming, and demanding, You cannot be selfish. You have to be selfless,” Beaton said. “Although real babies are much harder to raise than socks, this project gave my students a quick glimpse into the world of parenthood. It was a great way to stimulate thought and reflection while applying the principles that we learned in class.”
At the end of the five days, students reflected on their time with their sock baby, including both difficult and joyous moments that they experienced, as well as how they have grown throughout the project.
“I always forget things, like my keys, but taking care of this baby really helped me work on remembering things. I always had to be on top of my game and always keep in mind the needs of the baby,” student Ryan Plisinski from West Newbury said.