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Ambassabears Travel The World For Doolittle Students

June 11, 2011 by John Rook

So, gone any place interesting over the last six months?
Some “members” of the Doolittle School community certainly have. They've gone to Europe and Asia, attended hockey and baseball games, seen historic sites all across the United States, and come back home to Cheshire to share their tale.
Are they students? No. Teachers? Wrong again. If you guessed bears, you'd be right.
Stuffed bears, to be exact.
On Thursday, June 2, fourth-grade students at Doolittle once again participated in the Ambassabear Program, an end-of-the-year tradition at the school and a culmination of a unique six-month activity.
Beginning in November, students are asked to take a stuffed bear and send it on a journey. The bear can accompany the student on any vacations or be sent with family and friends, accompanying them on their excursions.
The result each year is that the bears end up touring the globe, going to virtually every continent and visiting some of the most famous sites imaginable. During the journey, a journal is sent with the bears and each activity and destination is recorded. When the stuffed animals finally return, the students take what has been written, along with any pictures that have been provided, and develop a presentation explaining their bear's adventure. Then, for one day, the students display their findings at Doolittle for fellow classmates, teachers, and even family members who come to visit.
“Over the years, the bears have visited all seven continents and have ended up going all over the world,” said Doolittle teacher Mike Juliano. “This really allows them to connect to the curriculum and allows the material to come alive.”
As a part of the social studies curriculum at Doolittle, students learn about different areas of the United States and some foreign nations. They study the environment, economy, and history of those areas. However, Juliano explained that only so much material can be covered in a year. The Ambassabear Program allows many participating students to learn about areas of the world they would not have time to cover in class.
“It really is a wonderful extension of what they are learning,” he said. “They aren't just learning about it from a book. It is real to them because the bear has been there.”
During the day, students from the third and fifth grades visit the fourth-grade classrooms to hear the student presentations. Then, later in the day, a reception is held for parents.
Colleen Sheridan, a fourth-grade teacher at Doolittle, believes that the project allows for several “teachable moments” as students relate where their bears have been and what they have seen.
“You can see it is sparking in them an interest in what they are learning about already,” she said. “They are all set up and ready to present, and that is exciting to them.”
Sheridan echoed the sentiments of her colleague Juliano when she pointed out that the project allows history and geography to jump off the page.
“They are seeing it in a different way, and that is always a good thing,” she said.
In Sheridan's room, her students sat in anticipation of the next group of students to enter the class. Brittany Biney was excited to show off her bear, which had traveled around Europe.
“My bear went to London and Switzerland,” she said, with a large smile. The youngster explained how her bear was taken on London's Big Eye, a giant Ferris wheel on the banks of the River Thames.
“They said he was the first bear they had ever seen on there,” Biney recounted.
William Fazo's bear stayed more local for its trip. Instead of traveling overseas, Fazo's stuffed animal went up and down the East Coast of the U.S., visiting neighboring state Massachusetts, then making its way down to South Carolina, and finally ending up in Florida.
Like Biney, Fazo's bear had the opportunity to enjoy some famous rides, and one very famous theme park.
“It got to go on a lot of rides at Disney World,” recalled Fazo. “That was fun to read about.”
Jason McKinley's bear visited New York but also ventured out to Japan. In March of this year, a tsunami devastated portions of the island nation and the aftermath has left much of Japan hobbled. McKinley's bear arrived in the nation after the event, however it wasn't brought to the most decimated areas.
“They stayed away from where it was really bad,” he said.
Lily Amodei's bear experienced a little bit of everything, from the warm weather of California to the harsher climate in Chicago, before finally ending up on the Mediterranean in Italy.
“The bear went to the Leaning Tower of Pisa,” she explained. “This bear, it had a jam-packed trip.”

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