Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators - Stringing It Together

Every month, Science & Sensibility shares a post with a teaching tip or activity for you to consider using in your classroom.  This January is the one year anniversary of Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators.  You can find all the Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators posts by clicking this link.

This month’s Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators idea would make a great ice-breaker or can be used as a community building exercise at any point in your childbirth class.  It allows families to connect and get to know each other.  Alternately, it could be used to divide up your class into groups or teams for small activities. Either way, the students are learning some interesting birth facts, circulating around the classroom and meeting new people.

Introduction

The purpose of this activity is to invite families to mix and mingle with each other.  This activity would make a great start to a childbirth class.  Additionally, an educator could use this mid-class (or mid series) to shake things up a little, get people talking to each other and invite them to change seats or connect with someone they haven’t yet met.  Every family or participant walks away with a better appreciation for some of the interesting facts about various parts of birth anatomy or babies.

© Sharon Muza

© Sharon Muza

When could a childbirth educator use this activity?

I would very confidently use this activity at the very beginning of childbirth class.  Helping families to connect and feel relaxed is my goal right off the bat.  When families need a fun “pick me up” – a reason to talk and move around, this short activity can be initiated for a quick release at any point during your class or series.

Materials

Eight cards, each printed with one of the following:

Side A Side B
Un-effaced cervical length  1 1/2 inches
Average birth canal (vagina) length  4 inches
Average umbilical cord length  22 inches
Average length of baby 20 inches
Average circumference of baby’s head 13 3/4 inches
40 week fundal height  16 inches
Diameter of a medium sized birth ball  26 inches
Diameter of a fully dilated cervix 4 inches

I laminated the cards to make them more durable, but you could just use cardstock as well without the lamination.

Two or (more) sets of cordage (I used rattail cord similar to this) cut into the above listed lengths.  Each set of cord is a different color.  Two sets/colors would work for 16 people or families.

© Sharon Muza

© Sharon Muza

How to conduct the activity

Before the students arrive, place the cord sets all together in a basket, bowl or bag.  Take the eight cards and place them on a table or taped to the wall in a convenient location.  Make sure “Side A” is visible and the measurement side (“Side B”) is face down.

Pass around the basket, asking each person or family (you decide if you want to keep partners together, or have everyone take their own) to take a string.  You could also run this concurrently with pregnant people connecting with other pregnant people, and partners/support people with other support people.

When everyone has a string, ask them to circulate throughout the room, looking for the person or family who has the matching string length.  Once they have found their match, they should head up to the cards and take the card that identifies which length of string they have, without looking at the measurement on the back.  Some pairs may take the wrong card, and that means that others will also end up with an incorrect card.  You can correct this later.  Once everyone has found their “string partner” and taken their card, you can then ask them to interview each other (names, due dates, whose inside, birth location…) and introduce their new friends to the rest of the class.  They could also answer a common question and discuss with each other (What is your biggest concern about becoming a parent, how did you find a pediatrician, are you returning to work after the baby arrives. etc…)  Or you can have them move into a small group activity. You can have several sets/colors – ultimately ending up with small groups composed of however many families or people you want.  Having four lengths of 22 inches, each a different color will just create a group of four.  I think it is easier to use different colors, only for you to be able to put things back after the exercise without making yourself crazy sorting them.  Different colors are easier to sort.

© Sharon Muza

© Sharon Muza

At the completion of the activity, you check in with them all, and ask them to hold up their string to show the length, and identify its significance.  You may need to “correct” those who picked the wrong card.  That is part of the fun, and you can share more interesting facts at the same time.

How is the activity received?

This is a fun activity to do and class participants enjoy how it unfolds.  They are amazed at some of the facts around the lengths that are represented in the activity.  Community building happens as families find out they have more in common with each other then they thought, and nascent friendships are formed.  The families also appreciate the chance to move around and stretch their legs.  If we move into a small group activity in the newly formed groups, they enjoy working with a set of fresh faces.

I like watching them circulate trying to find their “string partner” and pondering the significance of the length of string that they received.

Conclusion

Building community in my childbirth classes is an important objective for me.  “Stringing It Together” is a fun activity that helps do that while imparting fun facts about birth and mixing up the dynamics of the classroom environment.  There may be other activities or tasks that can be modified from this idea, and I wonder if you have a twist on this activity that you would like to share in the comments section.  I would love to read about your ideas or modifications and give them a try in my own classroom.  If you have an activity that you would like to share on Science & Sensibility in a future Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators post, please let me know.

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