Palmyra teacher uses infant simulators to teach students the complexity of parenting

One Palmyra teacher has found an impactful way for kids in her class to understand just how hard it is to care for a baby.

Aron Knoche, the Family & Consumer Science Teacher at Palmyra High School, utilizes CHART Teen Task Force’s Real Care Baby Infant Simulators as part of her curriculum.

United Way of Mark Twain’s community agency spotlight for January is the work of CHART Teen Task Force, highlighting the impact of their infant simulators.

These sophisticated baby simulators that provide students with the opportunity to learn what it is like to care for a baby.

Students are assigned to take care of one of the infant simulators for a few days as part of their class with Knoche.

The babies require diaper changes, bottle feedings, burping, rocking, and constant care. They come with a car seat and diaper bag that has to go with the baby.

The baby simulators, each costing upwards of $1,200, are provided for Knoche to utilize in her classroom through CHART Teen Task Force at no cost.

Schools throughout Northeast Missouri have these available to use at no cost through the organization.

For Knoche, she has found the Real Care Baby Infant Simulators as a great way for kids to get an understanding of just how hard it is to have a baby.

“Hands-on experiences outweigh textbooks and videos all day long,” said Knoche.

She knows all about those hands-on experiences of having a baby. She has three children – the two youngest are twins.

Ensuring students understand how having a baby changes everything and how much work it is having a baby is why CHART Teen Task Force provides students with these babies. It ensures young people think about their choices that might result in pregnancy.

“Parenting flipped my world upside down,” said Knoche.

“I wouldn’t change it for the world, but you’re not first anymore. You have a need? Good luck with that, write it down and maybe in 18 years you’ll get to it.”

For young people to grasp this in high school is hard. Many times, Knoche sees students get wrapped up with how cute babies and baby clothes are and not understand how hard it is to care for a baby.

Students have no idea how much time and attention babies need. They often don’t understand that having a baby is a lifetime commitment of being a parent.

Knoche was 28 years old with a 1-year-old when she found out she was having twins. She had wanted to have her children close together, but expected to have one child, not two.

At the time, she recalled she didn’t feel like she was “adult enough” to have twins. She was scared and doubted her ability to be able to handle twins.

She realized this would impact her in every dimension of her life from the vehicle she drove, her daycare bill, her grocery bill, and more. Knoche knew the realities of having children as she already had one.

For students in her classroom, the baby simulators provide a small glimpse into parenting. The simulators lead to discussions with her students about teen pregnancy and waiting until the right time to have a child when there is work/life balance and a life partner to also support the child.

“Students are just kids themselves and raising a child, while you’re still a child is no small feat,” said Knoche.

She wants to ensure that students in her classroom are able to enjoy their lives as young people to experience things, travel, get an education, and find a career before they make the decision to have a child.

Knoche knows that when her students take home the Real Care Baby Infant Simulators, they get a reality check and things are very much put into perspective.

Students always comment about how hard the experience was. Her favorite comment a student once told her was that they hoped there wasn’t a microphone.

“Most students admit they have cried while taking care of the baby for 70 hours,” said Knoche.

Knoche gets it – she has been a mom and the mom of twins. Newborns are entirely overwhelming. She knows that when students take home the Real Care Baby Infant Simulators, they are given a small glimpse of how parenting entirely changes lives and should be thought and planned for before jumping in.

It is the goal of CHART Teen Task Force to prevent unintended pregnancies amongst teens in Northeast Missouri. Their organization provides a variety of programs including the Real Care Baby Infant Simulators to schools.

Additionally, they host an annual Teen Health Fair each year where students can learn about a variety of health and safety topics, get free food, and great prizes. The event targets middle and high school students but is open for anyone.

This year’s Teen Health Fair will be held on Saturday, February 3rd at the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center in downtown Hannibal from 11am to 2pm. For more information on the event, you can visit here.

United Way financially supports the work of CHART Teen Task Force through the ‘Be a Light’ Campaign.

United Way encourages Community members and businesses to ‘be a light’ to individuals who rely upon the programs United Way helps fund. For more information on United Way visit here.