“One time, I left my babies in history class and didn’t realize it,” says junior Elaina Samady. “Then I came back and thought they were gone and freaked out...but I found them in the corner.”
Elaina’s moment of parent-like anxiety came in response to the (in)famous egg project. For years now, this project, requiring students to act as parents to egg babies for one week, has been a signature component of Lovett’s Human Development class.
“The purpose of the egg project,” says Mrs. Greer, who teaches the class, “is to give [the students] a little glimpse into parenting and to present them with some challenges that parents have.”
In order to give a variety of parenting experiences to her students, Mrs. Greer randomly assigns them different scenarios for having and raising their egg babies, ranging from adoption to surrogacy to natural birth. Not only do the students have to carry around their eggs for a week, but they also have to research these scenarios, figure out how to deal with the struggles they come across, and decide what kind of parent they want to be.
“All the circumstances seem far-fetched at first,” says junior Owen McMurtrie, “but situations like teen pregnancy and mothers drinking while pregnant do happen a lot.”
This project addresses the real-world issues that we don’t always address in school, while also allowing students the opportunity to learn about parenting.
And apparently (no pun intended), this learning opportunity can feel quite authentic.
“It’s hard to get used to [being a parent],” says senior Rankin Mori. “Even though it’s just an egg, you are very overprotective of it.”
Rankin and Elaina were assigned as co-parents to twin babies from Africa. Being co-parents allows them to have more flexibility in raising their kids than they would have as single parents.
However, even this presents its own challenges, as they have to schedule when each person will care for their eggs. In the end, even as co-parents, they’ve made some pretty terrifying mistakes.
“I went to the bathroom during Spanish and left my egg baby in there,” Rankin says. “I came back and I couldn’t find my egg baby...my Spanish teacher had taken them and hid them in the cabinet!”
It turns out that this isn’t too infrequent of an occurrence with this project. “Teachers often have fun messing with kids,” Mrs. Greer says. “Students have left their babies in various classrooms through the years and teachers have ‘kidnapped’ them.”
These “kidnappings” have usually just ended with a teacher’s friendly reminder about the importance of keeping a close eye on your kid, as it did in Rankin’s case. More traumatic incidents have left egg babies misplaced...or even cracked.
“I’ve never cracked an egg,” Owen says, “but I did leave mine in my car once for a four hour period, and I realized it when I was at my friend’s house. I had to call my mom and tell her to go out to the car and grab my egg and watch it.”
Other eggs have not been so fortunate as to be saved by their “grandmother.”
“The number one place for egg baby traumas is the café,” says Ms. Greer. Multiple babies have been lost in the café crowd, knocked off a table by a kid rushing by. In these cases, and any case where a student breaks or loses an egg baby, they simply lose five points and go to Mrs. Greer to get a new egg baby.
Really, the egg project is not just about taking care of the egg babies for this short period. The project also consists of researching, submitting a digital baby book of all the activities they do with their egg babies, and filling out questionnaires about students’ value systems as parents.
Ultimately, the project is designed to give students a deeper understanding, or at least empathy, for what it is like to be a parent.
“I’ve learned that making mistakes is normal because there is no perfect parenting guide,” Elaina says. “You’ve gotta make mistakes to learn to do the right thing.”
Or, as Owen alternatively sums it up, “I learned how easy it is to forget things in the car.”