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Rivers Class: Bear Hunters / Bear Lovers — Part 2

November 13, 2020 | Nathan Johnson

The children have gotten to know their bears very well…

And in doing so they have gotten to know themselves even better. 

The children have introduced their bears to the classroom and taught them all about school…

And in doing so we have a deeper understanding of our own schedule and culture. 


As we move through the year, whatever the children might encounter, the bears will be there to help them process. When a child is scared or sad, it helps them to comfort their bear. When a child is feeling a lack of clarity or control, it is helpful to provide structure for their bear. When a child is angry or impatient, they can help their bear calm down. If a child has a hard time expressing a want or a need, the bear might have an easier time doing so. When the child has a hard time using a strong voice, they can help their bear speak up.

In caring and advocating for the bears, the children are learning to better care and advocate for themselves.

Here is one example: In a year when our voices are obscured by masks, fans, air purifiers, and all the wind and neighborhood noise through open windows, it can be hard to hear each other’s voices. During Bear Play in drama, the children built a tunnel. The teachers expected this to develop into a game of traveling and maneuvering through the tunnel, but the children spent their time having their bears yell through the tunnel at each other, enjoying the acoustics and the echo.

Above: The bears are just inside the tunnel at each end.

The children (and the teachers) were delighted to hear each other’s voices in such a strong way.

The whole process, from hunting for, adopting, clothing, playing with, building with, and interviewing our bears has been delightful. We are excited to have our bear friends with us every day at school.

…Do you want to meet them?

You DO?

 Alright, without further ado…

The children are excited to introduce you to their bears!


This is Strawberry.

Strawberry is a girl bear who likes to sing and talk and play. The thing she likes best is when this child feels happy. She is five years old. Strawberry’s favorite thing to eat is pancakes. Strawberry likes to wear a mask so she can feel safe.

This child is good at helping Strawberry ask other bears to play. 



This is Blueberry.

Blueberry is 6 years old and a boy bear. He likes sweet potatoes, broccoli, and saying “I love you.” He is very good at riding bikes and scooters. He likes to take his mask off so he can give kisses.

This child is good at helping Blueberry move in a safe way. 



This is Bean.

Bean is a boy bear who is named after the beans in his bottom. He is 3 years old and loves to do backflips and eat hot burritos. Bean likes to wear a mask to keep his friends safe.

This child is good at telling Bean he is growing big and strong.



This is Bear-Bear.

Bear-Bear is 2 years old and likes to hug and dance and jump. He is a boy who loves to eat ice cream.  He lives in a cave and likes it when someone comes to visit. He likes wearing a mask, but this child has to give him a “Nose check!” reminder a lot.

This child is good at helping Bear-Bear talk in a “big voice.”



This is Kiki.

Kiki is a girl bear who is seven years old. Sometimes her name is Ceecee because she feels like it. Kiki likes to eat pickles, pears, and loves to hide. She also loves to sing. She likes to wear masks because they have beautiful colors. 

This child helps Kiki by reminding her to share and take turns.


This is Penny.

Penny is a girl bear and is 3 years old but sometimes a baby. She doesn’t like wearing a mask because it gets sweaty. She loves french toast and isn’t afraid of anything. 

This child is good at multi-tasking while cradling Penny using proper head support. 



This is Pickle Flips.

Pickle Flips is 8 years old and likes to snuggle. He is a boy bear who is good at eating, clapping, and dancing.  He can teach the other bears how to do backflips. He likes wearing a mask so he can be in disguise.  

This child helps Pickle Flips use his words when he is upset or worried.


Thanks for meeting our bears! 

You can always ask your child how their bear is doing at school!


Nathan Johnson

Early Childhood & Lower School Visual Art Teacher

Nathan Johnson graduated in 2004 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts (focusing on Illustration, Art History, and Puppetry), Theatre, and Elementary Education, followed by further time in Europe studying Art, and in Nova Scotia working with adults with developmental differences.

Happily back at his Alma mater (MSS class of 1995) Nathan has passionately committed his career to preserving the dignity and wonder of childhood. As children are more and more burdened with technology and privilege, he believes that in order for children to learn and grow, they must be given freedom within structure, choices with guidance, allowed to play, struggle, get dirty, and above all, to be taught that they are a beloved child of God.

When not in the classroom, Nathan can be found kayaking, camping, hosting a game night, wandering around New York City, making friends with strangers, and spending time with his 11 nieces and nephews.

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