"Are you the teacher who sends home the robot babies?!"
I'm a Family Consumer Sciences Teacher who teaches 9th grade Child Development which means I'm also the teacher who sends home the infant simulators! If that's also you, I've got some tips for you!
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1. Send home a parent/student contract laying out clear expectations and consequences before allowing students to even sign up to take home an infant simulator. You can get the editable contract I use HERE in my TPT store. It's important the students AND the parent know what they're getting themselves into. This will help prevent angry parents and upset students. I allow my students to sign up once they have turned in the contract with their parent signature--first come, first serve! So it motivates them to get it turned in cause the sooner they turn it in, the more likely they'll get the date they want.
2. Teach students your check out and check in procedures before anyone takes an infant simulator home to make it more smooth in the moment.
I also like to have the check out steps on the board when they come to get their infant simulators so that they have a reminder of what to do because it can get a little crazy! Also I usually have a few students who need to catch the bus so I try to make the process as quick as possible, while also making sure every student gets what they need to be successful. I have students fill out a Sign Out sheet where they check off that they have all the items needed in their diaper bag and sign that they're taking it all so that if they lose something or damage it--I can charge them for it without any questions. When they get back they again check off and sign that they brought everything back (in good condition).
3. Create a mandatory online quiz (re-takeable) about the infant simulator that students must get 100% on to be able to sign up for the baby. I recently started doing this just this year and I wish I had done it all along! This ensures that students actually know what they're doing and understand what they're signing up for with the infant simulator. I train my studednts on the baby and provide the training video and slides on Canvas (our LMS) but STILL sometimes students don't quite get it. You can put whatever questions you want on it--anything that you want to make sure they understand! I ask questions about my check out/check in procedures and about how to actually take care of the infant simulator. I allow mine to retake it as many times as needed but they must get 100%. Canvas autogrades so it's no extra work for me!
4. Label your Infant Simulators with numbers so you can label the supplies for that baby with the same number. I know some teachers who like to give their infant simulators names to help keep track of them but I prefer a number because it makes labeling everything for it easier. Plus I like allowing students to name their baby! If you feel numbers aren't humane enough for the babies then go ahead and name them real names but for sure you need to label them to keep track of them and know which baby students are taking home. I use this bluetooth label maker and love it! I label each ID key with the number of the baby to make it easy and quick to get students their correct ID key. When I ran out of the wristbands that come with the infant simulators, I purchased these these wristbands to attach them to.
5. Use backpacks as "diaper bags" for each baby.
I use these ones in different colors and label each with a number keychain to match the number of the baby. I like sending home a backpack because afterall, these are high schoolers, and a backpack is easiest for them to transport around. I like providing the bag for them so that everything can stay in the diaper bag week to week (aside from washing of course) and then it help assure students have what they need when they take baby home.
6. Have an alternate assignment(s) as an option for those who would rather not take one home or who lose the privilege of taking one home.
I have offered multiple assignment options at different point values and allowed students to pick and choose to get the amount of points that they would like. I have also just had the alternate project be actually babysitting a real child for a cumulative amount of hours.
7. Only allow students to take home the infant simulator if they have no missing assignments.
I have made the mistake of forgetting to tell students this expectation up front from day one and it's hard to enforce it if you don't do that... so tell them early on! I explain that if they can't even be responsible enough to turn in their assignments then why would I trust them to be responsible with an infant simulator that costs over $1200?? As soon as I put it that way they agree it makes sense (even if they don't like it). This also prevents the kind of students who will not take the project seriously, and probably end up damaging the infant simulator... from taking it home.
8. Allow students to request "quiet time" but with some consequence so that requesting too much would not be worth it. You can program the infant simulator to not cry during certain hours--it's still "on" and will cry if students mishandle it but it guarantees it won't cry otherwise. This is great for students who may not have a completely free weekend where they can take home the infant simulator because of all the extracurriculors they're involved in. However, I like to give a penalty per quiet time hour taken so that students don't just request a ton of hours. You can decide what you think is fair--I have usually don't -1% for every 2 hours. Usually students haven't needed more than 2-3 hours of quiet time so if they do a good job taking care of their baby it really doesn't end up hurting their score.
9. Send home infant simulators over the weekends and not during the school week. There may be other FCS teachers who disagree with me on this but this would be my advice! I know I would NOT be happy about a student having an infant simulator in my class during school. The only way I would ever allow a student to do it during the week would be to have them drop it off at "daycare" in my classroom for the school day and I would program quiet time so that it wouldn't cry. But personally, I feel this is way more work for me and it's much easier and less of a headache to just send it home on weekends. If students can't make any weekend work, even with a few hours of quiet time, then they can do the alternate project At the end of the day, I don't actually require them to take home the infant simulator.
10. Program the infant simulators the day before sending them out. You do NOT want to be in a rush trying to program the infant simualtors as your students are picking them up to take them home. If my students are requesting quiet time, I give them a deadline the week of so that I can program the babies ahead of time. If they don't let me know before that deadline then they don't get quiet time! If you're in a rush programming the babies, you are way more likely to make a mistake with the start and stop times. It doesn't take that long to program them but definitely triple check that you have the correct date and times!
11. Have students fill out a Google Form reflection after the experience. You can get an editable copy of the reflection form I have my students fill out HERE in my TPT store. I want my students to not only have the experience but to reflect on it so that they learn from it. I also love seeing their thoughts about it, however, I love doing it as a Google Form because it's super easy to collect their responses. I like to make the reflection part of their score because I really care more about them learning from it then what their actual score is on the simulation. As long as they tried on the simulation, I care more about what they took away from the experience.
12. Wash the clothes regularly and disinfect the infant simulators. I find it easy to have studens take the clothes off of baby and put them directly into the laundry basket so I can throw them in the washing machine! I always have my student TAs help put them back on the babies and back in their diaper bags. I also like to wipe down babies with a clorox wipe. If you don't have time to wash the clothes between every time they go out then I would atleast spray them with some clorox disinfecting mist.
BONUS TIP: if you can get the funding for it... I HIGHLY recommend the charging suitcase storage!! Makes it so much easier to charge and store the babies!
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