Contributed by Early Preschool Teacher Chelsea Owens
The Mount Vernon Baby Project came about very organically. At the start of the school year, we had 13 children in the two-year-old class, and of those 13 children, six of them had infant siblings that attend Mount Vernon.
From the beginning, they showed a very heavy interest in babies, but in some respects were still babies themselves. Some children in August were only 25 months old. We felt they needed a little more time exploring materials organically and learning new norms and routines that come with being in the space of two-year-olds.
When school started back in the spring, we felt that they were emotionally and cognitively ready to delve into a project. We had spent time noticing what the students’ interests are and where they were continually spending the most time within our classroom space.
Most of our time was spent with and speaking about babies. My co-educator (Ashley Greenfield) and I started by creating a web of all the things we, as adults, knew about babies. We questioned who we could use as experts, and how we could involve parents in our project. Luckily for us, we had six new, or soon to be new, mothers who could fill both of those slots.
We started by taking small groups of children to infant rooms to see first-hand what it is like when interacting with a baby. They started questioning things like “Were you a baby?” and “What did I look like as a baby?” so we made a class baby book that features all of the children in our class as babies, all of the infants in younger and older infants as well as many staff members as infants.
When making a web of knowledge with the children, they showed interest in the care of babies (feeding, bathing, changing) and how they could make the babies laugh and smile. So we started on those two tracks.
When talking about care we tasted baby food and fed babies, we helped bathe and change a baby, and have been learning so much about diapers, the few of us still left in them have started diapering themselves.
How to make a baby laugh and smile is a little more abstract of a question. Not everyone likes their toes tickled, and some “silly faces” are scary to babies so we had to track and see what made babies smile. We are currently on this track so it is coming to fruition pretty naturally. We will explore eye contact, smiling, soft-touch, singing, silly toys, and ‘I Love You’ rituals which combine eye contact, touch, and singing.