Gilson Brown Elementary School third-grade teacher Jamie Jones’ class poses with teddy bears and student teacher Dave Jackson (back left). Jackson initiated a Geobears project for the children, sending teddy bears around the country as an opportunity to teach the class about other regions.
GODFREY | When most people think about teddy bears, they are usually most at home in a child’s room, waiting to be snuggled with at night in a warm bed.
Local student teacher Dave Jackson decided to create another life’s mission for this simple stuffed animal … traveling the world.
The yearlong Geobears project has a basic concept.
“It’s a class project to learn about the world,” Jackson says. “Each student gets a bear that has a travel pack. There are also envelopes addressed and postcards that are stamped, along with notes from the students. We send a picture of the whole class, along with the bears, and ask people to keep passing the bears from one traveler to the next.”
Since the beginning of the year, Jackson has worked as a student teacher for Jamie Jones’ third-grade class at Gilson Brown Elementary School in Godfrey. He originally was introduced to the Geobears concept when he was a fourth-grader attending Ginger Woodman’s class.
“She had the idea herself and adapted it through the years,” Jackson says. “A lot of the credit for this project goes to her. She helped get the project going by sharing some of her stuff with me as well as helping me set it up.”
Woodman isn’t the only one who had faith in the project. Jones jumped on board right away, as well.
“It was amazing that she just let a student teacher take over and to allow me to do something this big,” Jackson says. “It was really cool of Ginger and Jamie to let me do this kind of project.”
Geobears is not only about the fun and excitement of traveling, but also a teaching tool. Each time they receive a response from someone who has a student’s bear (usually by email), they learn about each place. The Geobears have been to cities throughout the country, including Las Vegas, Washington, Chicago and New York City.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take long for the pint-sized, furry wanderers to stretch beyond our borders. They have journeyed overseas to places including Hong Kong, Beijing, London and Afghanistan, providing yet another learning opportunity for the students back home.
“When we do get a response, we try to learn about the population and different information about that specific place,” Jackson says.
In addition to information, the bears sometimes bring back something more tangible.
“(When I was doing it in fourth grade), the best thing about the project was that my bear got mailed back and it had a piece of volcanic rock from Hawaii,” he says.
Although Jackson finished his term as a student teacher Dec. 4, he says he is looking forward to following up with the class during the second semester and seeing where his little travelers wind up.