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Part 2: Where is Mr. Bear?

The daily routine of the two year olds includes a morning walk in our firehouse cart. No matter which route we would take on our walks, it always started with a visit to the seniors’ home and to our special tree to say “Hello” to our friend Mr. Bear--a little Bear that “lived” in a hole in the tree. Although a simple stuffed teddy bear, the children’s hears were captured by him.

One day, to our surprise, Mr. Bear was not in his home. “He’s gone!” the children cried.

Daily the children searched for him, but a week later, still no Mr. Bear. Acknowledging the children’s deep concern and curiosity for our missing bear we decided to launch the project Where is Mr. Bear?--an exploration of separation and reunion.

Teacher: Where do you think Mr. Bear is?
Child 1: Um, Mr. Bear is sleeping.
Child 2: He went to a small tree.
Child 3: He’s gone.
Child 4: Mr. Bear went away.
Child 5: Wow, where did he go?
Child 6: Maybe he will need a bandaid.
Child 7: Yeh, he fell out of the hole over there.
Child 8: We still need a tub for him.

He’ll need a bath when we find him.

Child 9: Okay, we’ll clean him up.

Asking Questions/ Generating Solutions:

As a group, the children began forming hypotheses on Mr. Bear’s whereabouts and solutions on how we might find him. We decided to write a letter and to give it to others to help us find Mr. Bear.
The children described Mr. Bear, recalling details by creating a mental image of him in their mind. They remembered the color of Mr. Bear’s eyes and nose. They recalled that he did not have any shoes on or a hat. But he did have a red bow tie. We placed this letter in his hole in the tree, hoping one of this friends might find it and contact us with information.

Here the children are discovering that their words can be translated into squiggled lines that other people can read. Their words have power this way. Theorists call this dawning knowledge part of “emergent literacy.”

Research:

Part of OFS project approach involves helping children learn to research and use available resources. After several conversations about who we should turn to when we are lost or need help, the children suggested we ask a policeman to help us find Mr. Bear.

Lt. Breshears was both a member of the Oakland SWAT Team and an OFS parent. He kindly agreed to come talk to the children about how to go about looking for a missing friend. The children were in awe as Lt. Breshears gave us some search tips.

First he suggested we contact any known friends of Mr. Bear’s and ask what they knew. Next he suggested we have a sketch artist (Teacher Susan) draw a picture of Mr. Bear by using the memories we had of him. The children recalled how many eyes, ears, and noses he had, and of course his red ribbon. The children then had a “missing bear poster” to show to people on their walk.

Postcards from Mr. Bear

One day on our walk we found a post card from Mr. Bear in the tree. The children were thrilled at this evidence that Mr. Bear still existed and was safe and sound. Mr. Bear wrote that he was gone on vacation but promised “to be back.” Meanwhile while on vacation, Mr. Bear promised to send postcards to us.

Being on vacation with one’s family was a common experience among our two and three year olds. Their parents shared with us postcards of family vacation spots. These postcards were used as postcards sent by Mr. Bear. When the postcards arrived the children often recognized the scene depicted and guessed where Mr. Bear was and what he might be experiencing. The postcards also cued the children in remembering their own vacations and thus inspired much conversation.

Bear Friends

One day Queen and Bride Bear, two friends of Mr. Bear’s, dropped into the class-room asking if we knew anything about Mr. Bear’s whereabouts. Queen Bear was a lavishly dressed “royal” teddy bear while Bride Bear was Mr. Bear’s fiancée. For several months, both Queen and Bride Bear dropped by to share information about Mr. Bear. Visits by Bride and Queen stimulated much conversation and remembering as the children sought to explain the latest news to Mr. Bear’s friends.

Bride Bear: Have you heard from Mr. Bear?
• That’s Mr. Bear.
• He’s in the water.
• See! See!
• He is in Hawaii.

Bears and Play

Planning activities for children two and three years of age means including opportunities to interact with objects: being able to touch, move, and manipulate them. With an emergent curriculum we plan activities to involve such tools; however, we develop the activities and objects to revolve around the project and themes.

With our Mr. Bear project we introduced activities with our “little bears”--bear shaped pieces of felt, each with a photo of a Dragon Room kid. The children used them during their play. One play situation included transporting the little bears across the room in a toy bus to “go to work” and then back “to Old Firehouse School.”

With our bear project, the bear costume, that had earlier seemed to have found a semi-permanent place on the bottom of our dress-up basket, was revived, becoming a popular dress-up piece. The children were interested in looking at themselves in costume--noticing changes in their image. Others took risks, taking on more assertive roles during play while using the costume. However, as Jared reminded his friends, “Don’t worry, I’m not a scary bear.”

Bear Hunt

The children’s interest in the story Going on a Bear Hunt provided an opportunity to include motor activity. We decided we would go on a bear hunt in our room.
We hid a favorite teddy bear, Curly bear, and the children used flashlights to look for him. Each attempt proved more challenging as the location of Curly became more difficult to find.

Emergent Literacy:

With exposure to writing and reading. Children begin to realize the power of the written word. They begin to notice that text conveys messages and thoughts--possesses meaning. Throughout the project we provided the children with such experiences. Opportunities to “write” and draw pictures for Mr. Bear were offered, as well as notes for characters, nonfiction books about bears, books with themes of separation and reunion, and of course, favorite stories that they enjoyed sharing with each other.


Go to Part 3.´╗┐