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Bears, Bears Everywhere!

November 18, 2020 | Kristen Jordan

You may have heard your child talking about his or her bear at home recently. Children have been bursting at the seams, waiting for their turn to work with Ms Gluckow to create a “safe and cozy” space for their bear. They thought that the shoeboxes (that were strategically placed in our room) would make the perfect place for their bears.

Each child chose a box that they thought their bear would like and then proceeded to really think about what their bear might need to be safe and comfortable. Most children decided to turn the box into a bed, but some thought of it more as a house.
The children came up with a plan for the elements they wanted to use as they worked very closely with Ms Gluckow, over the course of several days, to create a special place for their bears.

Children carefully selected paper to make the outside of the box beautiful. They decided what details were important: Their bear’s name, their name, the color, or design. They chose, cut, decorated, glued and made sure all the details were just right.

Then, it was time for the inside elements. Children made decisions about the designs they wanted to include and what they thought would help their bear to feel cozy and comfortable. Will my bear need a blanket? A pillow? What size? A small one? A body pillow?! What about a cover on the box? They selected fabric, measured what size it should be, marked it, and helped with cutting. Then, children decorated and added flair to the elements and finally put everything together. The bears (and the children) were so excited to complete the bear “homes”! The care with which children worked demonstrated how invested they were in creating this important project.

Children had to persist as they worked toward making something beautiful. In this process, not only were children learning about planning and executing a project over time, but they were role playing thinking about and caring for others.

And since then, the children have been playing with their bears in drama. They have used the boxes as cars, bears played hide and seek and dined on cakes. The bears have also been helping children to role play important social and emotional skills. One bear was found too quickly during hide and seek and she got really frustrated. How did she deal with her frustration? How did her bear friend help her? When one bear crashed into another bear’s box, it was upsetting. The first bear apologized with “I’m sorry” and the other bear forgave him. In addition to it simply being fun, the bears can really help children to develop communication skills and practice self-regulation that they will be able to use in their own lives.

And then finally today, with great joy, we celebrated the completion of the bear boxes! We overheard one child saying to another, “Are you SO excited for the celebration this evening?” Excited indeed! Each child took a turn sharing his or her bear’s favorite thing about their box. Then, friends gave each child a compliment and shared what they liked about the work. It is important to recognize our own hard work as well as to celebrate and admire the work of others. We heard “I love the blanket!” and “I really like the pillow” and “I like the design.”

And then we all built a “cake” together and sang to the bears.

The bears blew out the candle and “ate” cake.

And then we all had a DANCE PARTY!
There’s nothing quite like dancing with your bear to ragtime music!

As we reflected on the celebration, the cake and dance party were by far the favorite parts of the celebration for everyone!

Why is this project worthwhile? It seems like simply playing with bears, but in addition to being incredibly joyful and fun, these activities are in line with so many of the Twenty Habits that we value and use at Mustard Seed as guides to thinking about our work with children. Here they are, in case you are interested. I highlighted all of the habits that seem to apply! Wow!

Twenty Habits
“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us” – John Dryden

Habits of . . .
Heart (being hospitable; caring for others, for ideas, and for self)

  • listening with empathy and understanding, respects, forgives
  • responding with wonder and awe, recognizes and appreciates beauty
  • celebrating and having joy, a sense of humor, affirmation
  • responding with gratitude, humility, openness
  • expressing kindness: serving, welcoming, encouraging


Mind (constructing and reconstructing ideas and knowledge)

  • connecting and synthesizing: applying prior knowledge, connecting thoughts into a whole
  • creating: imagining, innovating, modeling
  • thinking flexibly: adapting and changing with purpose
  • questioning and pursuing inquiry with curiosity
  • reflecting: metacognition


Learning (processing, active and continuous pursuit that builds expertise)

  • persisting: learning and practicing with perseverance, tenacity, grit
  • self-regulating: using self control, managing impulsivity
  • exploring: taking risks with boldness, willing to fail and make mistakes
  • striving for accuracy, clarity, excellence, elegance
  • using all senses and modes to gather information, communicate, represent


Work (self-directed, effective, productive)

  • managing time – independently pacing actions in view of time
  • managing space and materials – independently and with purpose ordering materials, media, tools
  • organizing thoughts: plans, strategies, ideas
  • attending with focus and stamina
  • engaging fully in tasks, participating with motivation and personal investment, collaborating

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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