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WALLINGFORD, CT SCHOOL DISTRICT'S MODEL PROGRAM: PREPARING MIDDLE SCHOOLERS FOR PARENTING


Connecticut Coalition for Child Development Education

Basic parenting/child development information can be presented in schools immediately at no extra cost by utilizing the middle school Family and consumer Science program, as Wallingford School District has done, or in high schools. Family and Consumer Science (FACS) teachers, who have thorough pre-training in child development, are already in place in nearly all high schools, and FACS classes are required in many middle schools. As a member of the Wallingford, Connecticut, Board of Education, Joan Barbuto helped the FACS teachers work on the curriculum for this middle school program, which just required swapping some of the sewing classes with programming on parenting skills and child development. As a result:

  • All Wallingford sixth graders now have 10 classes in which they learn about child safety, the responsibilities of parenting, and activities to do with children.
  • All Wallingford seventh graders have 10 classes in which learn about good ways of communicating with children, good ways of managing children of different age levels, and more about responsibilities of parenting, the danger of shaking a baby, what to do if a baby cries, etc.
  • Wallingford eighth grade students are offered a more detailed quarter year of parenting education/child development instruction, in which students learn about the social, emotional, intellectual and physical needs of children and how to satisfy them at various ages. However, students have a choice of subjects in this grade, and only about 25% take the 8th grade parenting/child development classes.

Wallingford's curriculum covers parenting and child development from pregnancy through age five and includes a nursery school component in which students actually interact with children and learn how to communicate with them and guide their behavior. Ideally, education in parenting and child development should be taught all through the school years. In the early primary grades, teachers could have a parent visit with an infant each month, and the young children could see how the parent cares for the baby; learn why babies cry; see how the mother responds to its crying, comforts and nurtures the child; and see how the baby develops and the new things it can do each month. In later primary grades, they can learn appropriate ways to respond to a baby's crying, building trust between parent and child, promoting self-esteem and an introduction to positive communication skills and positive discipline techniques.


Parenting Education/Child Development Curriculum in Wallingford, CT Middle Schools


The child development classes are not exactly the same at Wallingford’s two middle schools, but some of the topics covered at one or *both schools include:

Grade 6 (10 classes)

1. Basic growth and development of infants and toddlers
2. Basic child safety and first aid concerns for infants and toddlers
3. What to expect when interacting with infants and toddlers
4. The responsibilities of caring for infants and toddlers
5. How infants and toddlers learn through play
6. Discussion of age-appropriate toys and activities up to age 5
7. Qualifications for being a responsible babysitter
8. Foods to prepare while babysitting
9. Enrollment in Red Cross babysitting course recommended

Videos:
Babysitting Basics
In a Split Second: The Emergency Action Video
Video on childproofing a kitchen

Projects:
Babysitters Pamphlet and Babysitter's Kit
Babysitting Do's and Don'ts Poster

Text:
None used; teacher's resources and handouts are provided


Grade 7 (10 classes)

1. *How to talk to young children up to the age of 5 years
2. *Physical development related to activity and play
3. *Basic developmental tasks of young children
4. *Appropriate ways to guide the children's behavior at varying ages
5. How to handle problems such as crying and temper tantrums in young children
6. Age-appropriate toys and activities
7. The difference between parenting and parenthood - responsibilities
8. *Child safety and how to prevent common accidents
9. Child care skills and careers
10. Teen parents - problems and disadvantages
11. Foods to feed infants and toddlers

Videos:
Video on emotional development
Egg Baby
First Aid: Infant & Toddler Emergencies - Volume 1 & 2
Baby Safe Child Development: The First Two Years

Projects:
Egg-Baby Experiment
Baby Book
Posters on Child Abuse

Text:
Young Living, and teacher's resources and handouts are provided


Grade 8 (9 weeks, about 25 classes)

1. Stages of child development
2. Pictures of baby developing in the womb
3. Caring for children
4. Keeping children safe; handling daily and emergency situations
5. The responsibilities of parenting
6. Discussion and role play of parenting situations and skills needed for child rearing
7. Discussion and observation of physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of Children
8. The physical, social, emotional and intellectual needs of infants and young children
9. Age-appropriate toys and play for children through age 5
10. Planning for a 4-5 year-old gathering including nutrition, play and music
11. Career opportunities
12. Some teachers have parents or other teachers bring their young children into a class so students can observe the child's behavior.

Videos:
Video and discussion of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS an Update)
Video presentation and discussion on discipline, including spanking and hitting, and dangers of shaking an infant (Shaking, Hitting and Spanking)
Birth Defects: Too Late to Change
Baby Experience: Muslin Babies
Physical Development: The First Five Years

Projects:
Skits on parenting situations
Creation of toys or games
Posters and presentations on stages of development
Group research and presentations on Child Care Centers
Preparation and evaluation of baby food
Carrying around a muslin baby everywhere and keeping a journal about it

Text:
Today's Teen


High School

A full-year elective child development course is also offered at the high school. It starts with prenatal development and goes through infancy, toddler and preschool stages of children. The course uses the computerized Baby Think it Over program to help students realize the responsibilities and difficulties of caring for a baby. The Connecticut Coalition for Parenting Education and Prepare Tomorrow’s Parents would recommend that the high school course also be made a requirement.


School Board Member, Teacher, and Student Comments:

A. Wallingford School Board member Joan Barbuto reports: I have visited classes in the two schools, and have been pleased with what the children were learning.

1. In 6th and 7th grades especially some teachers felt more classes in parenting/child development should be given because they only have time to touch briefly on subjects. As a result, the program has been expanded to 10 classes this year in 6th and 7th grade.
2. The teachers with whom I spoke believe it is important to begin teaching some parenting and child development in middle school, because there are some children who become sexually active in late middle school or early high school grades. They need to know about the difficulties and responsibilities of parenthood. But the teachers think this should be followed up with a much more intensive course on the high school level.

B. Girls enjoyed the classes, especially those taking the eighth grade class (most who take it are girls); boys sometimes were not interested, and may find the topic of parenting/child development more relevant when they are of high school age.

C. After the first year of the middle school program, one of the teachers whose classrooms I visited had had her students write notes to me about what they thought of the parenting/child development classes.Most of the students found the program interesting and beneficial: Here are two examples:

I am an eighth grade student at Moran Middle School. For the past nine weeks I have been in the Child Development class here at school. During class I learned many things about children that will help me if I ever have my own children some day. I am glad that you felt strongly enough to make this part of the eighth grade curriculum. (Erin)

I am a student from the child development class and I thought this class was great. It was never boring the whole nine weeks we met. I learned a lot more about taking care of a child from this class, and that's good for us middle school students because we need to know in case we have younger brothers and sisters, or if we have a babysitting job like me. This class really helped me. (Christie Marie)


The Connecticut Coalition for Child Development Education, formerly the Connecticut Coalition for Parenting Education is comprised of approximately 40 people and organizations dedicated to bringing education in child safety, child development and parenting skills to all Connecticut students sometime before they graduate from high school. Members include Yale psychology professor Edward Zigler, who helped launch Head Start, Yale child psychiatrists Kyle Pruett and James Comer, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, the Mental Health Association of Connecticut; the Connecticut Child Advocate, pediatricians, psychologists, social workers, parents, and other state residents.

Nine years of coalition experience with the legislature and Commissioners of Education indicate the need for a groundswell of public support to bring about action. For more information and to get involved, contact Joan Barbuto, Coordinator of the Coalition, at
joanbstone@aol.com or 203/269-1946.


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