Preschoolers were a little like kings and queens of the wild frontier last week when they hunted a bear for “B week” in class at Marion Head Start.
During B week, B stood for B words but mostly for bears, a lot of soft, cuddly teddy bears in all colors, shapes, and sizes: Brown bears, black bears, red bears, pink bears, rainbow bears, a Captain America bear, Spider bear, and a little white bunny in a Harvard shirt.
Reading, mapping, and acting out the narrative arc of “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen also were part of B week.
“Time to go clean up and go on an adventure,” instructor Lesli Beery said, “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…” as the class scurried and scuttled to put away toys, books, crayons, and the like.
One student exclaimed, “Oops, I left my bear in the kitchen” before rushing back to claim it.
“Ring, freeze, twinkle, stop,” Beery said. “Take a deep breath…”
Beery uses the deep breathing exercise to calm and focus students during a transition before a new activity, like reading “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.”
After Beery finished reading the story, students lined up at the door clutching their stuffed animals and struggling to hold back roars of excitement.
It was adventure time.
When the classroom door creaked open slowly, students were suddenly in large field of undulant hills that swayed with long, wavy “swishy-swashy” Easter grass strewn about an expanse of green construction paper.
Soon they came upon a “deep, cold” blue tarp river with a silvery glittering blanket and azure Easter grass frothing at the surface.
They couldn’t go under it and they couldn’t go over it, but they were on a bear hunt and they weren’t scared, so they splashed right through it.
After a long walk down a hallway lined with “big-kid lockers” and student projects, the bear hunters came across a construction paper pit of “thick, oozy” mud.
Determined, they slogged through the sludge, giggling at the mess they didn’t make until they delved down another long hallway and came upon a “big, dark forest” in the school’s walkthrough storage closet.
“We’re not scared,” students said as they stumbled and tripped through the imaginary overgrowth into the beautiful day of the quiet, empty lunchroom.
Suddenly a massive blue tarp storm front blew in, bringing a blinding blizzard of pillow stuffing snow with it.
Nevertheless, with the help of their stuffed animals, the class trudged through the “swirling, whirling” snowstorm.
Bewildered but brave, the class journeyed on in search of their bear, certain they were going to catch a big one, until they came to the land of folded up lunch tables where they found a “narrow, gloomy” cardboard box cave with a brown blanket draped over it.
A hush fell over the class as they tiptoed into the abyss.
Students froze as they saw “One shiny, wet nose/Two big furry ears/ Two big goggly eyes.”
“Watch out it’s a bear,” one student said as the bear jumped out, causing the class to recoil and snicker, hugging their stuffed animals for protection.
“Wait,” another student said. “I think that is a human in a bear suit.”
Then the bear did something it didn’t do in the story students had read: it popped off its head.
“Mr. Wasmuth!” the kids shouted.
“It’s hot in this thing,” MES principal Justin Wasmuth said. “I think I picked the wrong clothes to wear today.”
Some students gently tugged on the bear head to see what was inside, and two students managed to cram their craniums in while others asked if they could try it.