By PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE
SPRING HILL — Challenger K-8 kindergarten teacher Margie Yurtinus likes to have a teddy bear picnic early each school year as a culmination to a bear-themed unit. Her students are invited to bring teddy bears, or other beloved stuffed toys, from home for the day.
Yurtinus has a knack for intertwining all manner of lessons into this fun activity. For one thing, she has a real bear that was prepared by a taxidermist — a gift from a parent — that she brings in from home.
The thick fur, the sharp teeth and the long claws are right there for the children to see. Throughout the unit, the children learn about a bear's excellent sense of smell and hearing, but limited sight.
The bear and facts about it are a science lesson. Yurtinus also includes literature, math, reading and writing in the unit. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, for example, is a familiar and comfortable story she uses that contrasts fantasy with real bears.
No special event in Yurtinus' classroom is complete without treats, and this is where parents are so valuable to her and the children. The students, adorned with bear headbands, enjoyed "bear fare" — blueberries, red raspberries, strawberries, berry kabobs, blueberry and strawberry muffins, blueberry scones, berry pie and mixed berry juice.