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Part 1:

Where is Mr. Bear? The Goodbye/Hello Project

The Mr. Bear Project is one of the all time favorite projects at OFS. Perhaps this is because it so encapsulates the heart of our philosophy- the power and centrality of relationships for young children. We believe that emotional relationships children have in the first three years of life not only color all their future relationships, but actually determine how their brains process information. Therefore, a young child’s relationships with their caregivers-parents and teachers are sacred at Old Firehouse School. The famous child psychiatrist John Bowlby calls these primary relationships “attachment” relationships and devoted his life to exploring their origin and impact on adult life.

Lacking a mature understanding of future or past time, children less than two years of age experience separation as genuine loss, i.e. When Mom is gone she’s gone forever for them. Two’s are just at the cusp of understanding these rudimentary time concepts.

Therefore they are ripe for the exploration of separation and reunion in time that this project explores.
In the Mr. Bear Project we use the loss and reunion of a stuffed animal “Mr. Bear” to explore the themes of separation, loss and reunion for our two year olds from the Dragon Room. Mr. Bear leaves, but he comes back again, just like Mommy and Daddy do everyday.

This project also is a good example of the importance we place on memory development. Throughout this project the teachers use photography, videography and pretend interactions with stuffed animals to help children store, organize and retrieve memories of both Mr. Bear and their parents.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

"We are molded and re-molded by those who have loved us. Though the love may pass, its impression remains upon us forever."--François Maurois.

Separation anxiety is a common experience that connects all of human kind. Yet Einstein was right, time is relative. What may seem a brief separation for a parent can be an eternity for a young child. In order to withstand long separations, children must begin to build a mental image of their parents or primary caregivers that they “carry” with them while they are separated. Struggling to sustain this image is what makes separation difficult.

Parents are not immune to these feelings of separation anxiety. At OFS we acknowledge these feelings as important processes for both the child and parents. We work together with the parents to help both the child and parent successfully cope with Hellos and Goodbyes.
We believe that the way we help children separate and the way we help them feel connected to people who care about them both at home and at school has powerful ramifications for children’s long term sense of security. At OFS we recognize and honor that our children’s primary relationships are with their parents. However, we also acknowledge the teacher-child relationship as of key importance to the children. After all, they are with us for eight to 10 1/2 hours a day.

Separations & Reunion

Children form different types of attachments with different people. In terms of the daily separation process we see ourselves as comforters, stimulators of memory, and as secure bases for the children.

Teacher as secure base

In order for young children to be able to explore and take risks while in the school environment, they need to know that there is someone available to support and help them. This is our role.

Teacher as memory

We remind the children that “Mommy or Daddy will pick you up at 5:30.” We also remind them what the day holds for them: friends and play.

Teacher as comforter

We acknowledge the feelings of loss when Mom or Dad leave and we try to give them the gentle reassurance that they are in a place where they are loved.

Go to Part 2