The senior baby project has been an ongoing tradition at Park Ridge High School for many years. Students have been required to either write a 20 page paper on childbirth or “adopt” and raise an animatronic baby for 3 days. However, most students choose the latter. This means that the students have to put the needs of their “child” ahead of their own in order to maintain a good grade. Students will have to wake up in the middle of the night, be late to their extracurriculars, or slightly disrupt a class they are in in order to soothe the baby. If the student fails to respond to their baby’s cries, they lose points for neglect.
Mrs. Washnik, the senior’s health teacher at Park Ridge, offered some insight into what this project consists of and the impact that it has on students’ lives. “Hopefully the students get just a tiny look at the responsibility necessary for parenting,” she says, “I also hope they take a few moments to think about having a child.” By having the students take part in this project, they are able to realize the impact that having a child would have on their lives.
Throughout the years of assigning this project, Mrs. Washnik shared that this experience has had an impact on her. She is able to learn from how her students handle and react to this project and she uses this feedback to help improve the project for future students.
I interviewed two students, Julia Moran and Ann Griffith, who both shared their experience raising the baby.
When asked about how this experience has shaped her opinion on parenting and children in general, Julia said, “it made me personally reflect and question if I would be a good mother or not. Parenting is no joke and those with babies need to give 110% effort to make sure their little one is on track. Mad respect to all parents out there – especially the single parents like I was for a few days.” She learned that when you have a child, they become your #1 priority, and she also learned that babies are actually pretty heavy.
Ann shared that this project helped her truly understand how draining, both emotionally and physically, having a child is. Not only did she face the struggle of having to look after another “living” being, but she also had to deal with the insensitive stares that she received from strangers who believed she was teen parent. “It was really interesting, almost like a social experiment, to see how people in this area react to what looked very much like a 17-year-old mother,” she said, “Seeing the initial shock was comical, but I felt strange and uncomfortable when people gave me disapproving looks.” However, she also stated that being a “parent” was not all bad. Prior to this experience, Ann was not too comfortable around babies. She would avoid situations in which she might have to hold or look after another person’s baby; however this experience showed her that she was capable of looking after or holding somebody else’s kid for a little while.
The senior baby project is an important learning experience that the students of Park Ridge High School take part in. While some students gain a new respect for parents and the effort it takes to raise a child, others learn that being a parent is a tedious full time job and children are a top priority in the lives of people who have them. No matter what your takeaway is, I think it is safe to say that this project leaves a lasting impact on all of the students who take part in it, hopefully providing some insight that can help them in the future, whether or not it be with children of their own one day.