Students try not to crack under pressure of parenting assignment
by Mark Andrews
Mar 04, 2011 | 2966 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartersville High School teacher David Matherne checks to see if an egg’s diaper has been kept clean while students Stephen Hopkins and Lexi Koziel wait to hear the outcome. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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In a 21st century education environment, one might think old-school lessons have taken a back seat to new-school technology. However, that's not the case for Cartersville High School teacher David Matherne, who teaches his ninth- and 10th-grade life skills students not everything they'll face in this world can be managed with a smartphone or tablet computer.

For the past week, students have played the role of parents, caring for a hard-boiled egg as a child care assignment.

"I want students to have an authentic experience of being with a child all day and having to make acceptable accommodations if they are unable to be with [the egg] because of things like play practice and work," Matherne said. "The underlying motive is for students to get experience as a parent."

Students began the assignment last Friday by bringing in an egg, randomly selecting a gender, then giving it a name and a face. Over the week, students have dressed the egg and provided a crib for transportation.

Matherne said they refer to the egg as a "baby" or "child" to make the experience more realistic. Matherne also gave the eggs a birth certificate, Social Security number and special markings in case a student tried to switch a cracked egg with a new egg.

"Students announced in class what gender they wanted before they drew [the gender]," Matherne said. "Many students in class didn't get the gender they were hoping for and they learned a life lesson right there."

Matherne has students simulate acts necessary for child rearing, such as changing the egg's "diaper" made from toilet tissue, bathing and dressing the egg, "feeding" the egg by rubbing a moist cookie gently against the shell until the cookie forms a crescent shape, and documenting times throughout the day when the student would stop to aid a "crying" egg.

"[Students] have to keep a log throughout the day of different things they did for the baby," Matherne said. "Some have grown quite attached to their little junior."

During the school day, Matherne keeps watch over the students and their eggs, dropping by during classes or at the lunch table to make sure both are where they need to be.

He serves as the "nursery" during his class, but also serves as doctor, the Department of Children's Services and even the police.

"I've caught three kids without their egg, and I had them write an essay on why parents shouldn't leave a child that age alone and to explain their thinking process," Matherne said. "I then had them serve 15 minutes of detention because other students said if you neglect a child badly enough, you'll go to jail."

If a student cracks an egg, they lose a letter grade. If the egg is cracked or is emitting an odor, students have to make an appointment with Matherne for assessment.

"They can't just bring [the egg] to me during class," Matherne said. "They have to learn to make an appointment with the doctor and that it isn't always convenient."

Matherne said in one class he discussed possible illnesses a baby or child could contract, such as the measles or jaundice, and painted the eggs to reflect these illnesses.

Sophomore Morgan Woods said caring for her egg, "Melanie," was a new experience, but she has become attached over the process and accustomed to sharing her day-to-day activities with the egg.

"The other day we went to get our feet done together," Woods said, laughing.

She said keeping a log of how the egg is being cared for was also something she had not yet experienced, but Matherne said that was the point.

"I want [the students] to talk with their parents and put what [the parents] said in the log," Matherne said. "It's a good opportunity for parents to use [this assignment] as a teaching moment for what the parent wants the child to know about child rearing."

Sophomore Cody Scoggins said the experience was not completely new after caring for pets, but there were some differences.

"I've never had to feed anything by hand before, so that was new," Scoggins said.

Although Scoggins has taken care of his egg and has not had any mishaps, he said he hasn't become attached.

"It's an egg," Scoggins said.