Amazing Lamaze educator Mallory Emerson is back again this month with a creative and fun "Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators" activity that effectively teaches the events of late pregnancy with some anatomy, hormones and more thrown in, all wrapped up with a lot of interactivity and fun. "Late Pregnancy Cast of Characters" is a great way to start your class or introduce later in the learning process. To find all of our "Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators" that you can start using right away, click here. - Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility
Getting a childbirth class started off early with a fun activity sets the tone for families that this will be a class where they will laugh, ask questions, do some silly things, and possibly get a little uncomfortable. They start with the expectation that this isn’t going to be a lecture & take-notes kind of class. I find that dedicating time to early topics in an interactive way leads to more engaged class members who are eager to jump into the heavier topics later on. I have used quite a few Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators ideas to jumpstart my classes -- anatomy drawing icebreaker, beach ball brainstorming, QR codes, and “Stringing It Together” are just a few. I love trying new stuff with these topics! The most recent variation I created stemmed from a desire to pull in several different introductory topics into one activity towards the beginning of a one-day intensive. I call this my “Late Pregnancy Cast of Characters”. This activity introduces families to the anatomy of pregnancy, the changes that take place in late pregnancy, the main hormones involved, and how everything works together during the birth process.
- Images of the “characters” -- I drew large pictures of the anatomy I wanted to include on poster paper, cut them out and then laminated them at the local Lakeshore Learning (chain of teacher materials stores that has a really huge laminator that is amazingly cheap to use.) I really wanted them to have a little personality, so did not want to rely on stock images or realistic photos. I wanted them to be large enough that we could use them as a whole class. You could use smaller pictures and have them work in smaller groups for a different effect. The characters I have used so far are a uterus, placenta, vagina, cervix, mucus plug, amniotic sac/fluid, breasts, baby, and hormones (oxytocin, endorphins, catecholamines).
- Character introductions -- I wrote these in a first-person style and tried to give each character a fun name and their own particular personality, while still getting across basic information for each character. I included changes that take place during pregnancy (especially in the final weeks), what happens during birth, how it interacts with other characters, and relationship to hormones if applicable. I also included a “fun fact” at the end of each introduction. You can download these character introductions here.
- I also have some of our classroom posters and our pelvis/fetus model on hand in case there are questions or conversations that come up that might require a more realistic illustration or alternative visual to explore.
When to conduct this activity
This activity works well early in a class -- either the first week of a series or in the first hour or so of a more condensed class. I try to do a warm-up activity and introduction to myself, the class, and each other and then jump right into the cast of characters with a brief introduction about embracing the silly parts of class and asking lots of questions.
How to conduct this activity
After warming the class up, introduce the idea that there is a whole cast of characters involved in getting labor started and birthing their baby. Let them know that this activity will get them familiar with all of the characters they’ll be working with throughout class.
I like to have enough characters so that I can start things off and demonstrate how it works...I try to read my character’s introduction (“The Great and Mighty Uterus”) with a lot of flair to give them the freedom to really embrace their acting skills!
I tape the uterus up on the wall or the board and usually get a laugh at my drawing’s big smile.
Depending on the number of families in class, divide the rest of your character images and introductions.
- For a class of nine or ten families, each family gets a character and their introduction.
- For a smaller class of four or five families, each person can get their own character.
- NOTE: You could also use this as an icebreaker in a larger class, having some families with images, some with introductions and have them find each other and then introduce their characters together.
- The class members take a few minutes to read through the intro and get to know their character before introducing it to the class. I tell them they can just read the intro or mix it up and put their own spin on it if they want. By dividing them up around the room in the order that you’d like them added to the board, you can save a little time. Each family or individual comes up, introduces their character and then adds it to the board in the right spot, getting feedback from the class if they aren’t sure where exactly that part of the anatomy belongs. With each character introduction, there are usually some questions or tidbits of info I add in...even better, there is often lots of information coming from other members of class about things they have read or heard.
I always follow this activity up with a break because it does take up a good chunk of time.
How this activity is received by families
Families have loved meeting these characters and, in my experience, recall things like hormone interactions more consistently later in class than when I have covered them in engaging and memorable ways. have gotten lots of laughs, and have had otherwise quiet students come out of their shells a bit when introducing cartoonish pieces of anatomy. They have also been fairly open asking questions during this activity, allowing us to dig into some of their concerns right off the bat, or giving me insight into where we might end up spending extra time later on in class.
My “Late Pregnancy Cast of Characters” took a bit more upfront preparation/creation time than some of my other activities, but was very low cost (thanks Lakeshore!) and absolutely worth the effort for my classes. I have fun conducting the activity and families tell me time and time again that they enjoy doing it. Do you think that you would do something like this in your classes? How might you modify it to work best for you?
About Mallory Emerson
Mallory Emerson, LCCE is a childbirth educator in the Seattle area. She currently teaches Great Starts classes with Parent Trust for Washington Children. Mallory is passionate about providing evidence-based information to new families so that they can confidently navigate the decisions of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. Mallory first trained with the Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations at Bastyr University in 2014. She is a Great Starts certified educator and also completed the Passion for Birth training before becoming a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator in 2017.