Teddy Bear School Research

Susan Morduch, Ph.D.

 

 

Character Education Background

 

Character education is reemerging in this nation as a valued and necessary component of our children’s education.  The question of how character education is best approached is currently being explored.  Educators mostly agree on the definition of character education and its variants (social-emotional learning, emotional intelligence, social emotional education, etc.)  They also agree on the ideal form of teaching character education, i.e., it should not be taught solely in schools, but needs to be addressed in schools, home and community. 

 

Character education is often presented as teaching instances of good character, e.g. be honest, be kind, share.  The skills behind these instantiations are less often focused upon, but are gaining greater importance through research.  For Teddy Bear School, these skills have been divided into three categories -- managing and understanding oneself, understanding others, and understanding and maintaining relationships. 

 

The goal of Teddy Bear School is to provide character education (within the framework of social-emotional development) for preschool children.  This is the basis upon which further academic learning can build.  It is very difficult to learn in school when one does not have the social and personal skills for self-management, let alone relating to others.  TBS also wants to reach out to parents and caregivers and invite them to further support character education, both during and after the program. Children who have highly developed social-emotional skills (such as self-awareness, social-awareness, mood management, empathy, responsible decision-making and relationship-management) are better able to succeed in a school setting. 

 

Teddy Bear School and Social Emotional Development

The foundation for social-emotional development is a secure attachment relationship.  While TBS cannot hope to meaningfully influence this relationship, the show is designed with attachment and bonding as the underlying foundation.

 

Teddy Bear School (TBS) is a modern show with old-fashioned appeal.  The setting, characters, and story lines are all designed to help children feel warm and welcome, while using that comfort level to encourage children to venture forth into the real world (especially school) with confidence. 

 

This world of Teddy Bears is a warm, safe place.  Teddies exist solely for the purpose of being a love object, a transitional object, an always-there-to-comfort-you friend.  The setting is home-like, in an old cluttered attic filled with all sorts of fascinating fun things hidden among the old familiar boxes and trunks of yesteryear.  In addition, the bears, Mookoo and Rackets function more as a family than as a school.

 

The issues the young bears face are those typical of the nursery school set – ones that involve managing and understanding themselves (e.g. being shy, afraid, overly excited, and what to do with those feelings), understanding others (jealousy, communication, differences) and understanding how we all relate to each other (friendship, respect, giving space, having fun).  These are the core processes in social-emotional development.

 

Managing and Understanding Oneself

 

Feelings

Preschoolers are easily overwhelmed with emotions. They don’t know what they are experiencing, nor how to return to their normal comfortable state.  Part of the process of mastering emotions is to label feelings.  Once they are recognized and familiar, they become less overwhelming and more manageable.

 

The Teddies in TBS display a wide variety of emotions.  Many of these emotions will be labeled and some of them will be the focus of an episode.  For example, on the first day of school, Giggle is afraid of her shadow.  She is too young to verbalize her fears, so the other bears empathetically search for the source of Giggle’s discomfort.  The bears explain the shadow to her and she eventually giggles at her new discovery.

 

Differences

Each character has clear strengths and weaknesses.  They are learning about themselves and how they fit into the TBS world.  For example, Wobbly fears that his wobbliness may prevent him from being a good teddy bear.  He learns that his physical abilities in no way impact upon his teddy bear skills. 

 

Perseverance

Wobbly Bear displays perseverance and doesn’t give up, despite difficulties.  Mimi though, is overly active and easily distractible.  The two characters learn how to interact and support each other accordingly.

 

Understanding Others

 

Empathy

Empathy is modeled in abundance in TBS, as teddy bears are naturally attuned to others.  Life can also be a bit more difficult for Giggle as she can’t communicate as well as the others.  In this case, we don’t see Giggle dealing with the issue (she’s too young), but the others talk about it.  They come to understand that Giggle is little and some things are more difficult for her.  In another episode, it is Giggle who tries to cheer up Wobbly.

 

Acceptance

This is often modeled in TBS, as it goes along with empathy.  It is sometimes discussed.  As mentioned above, the bears accept Wobbly and his wobbliness along with Giggle and her lack of communication skills.  One often sees Barley tolerating Mookoo’s antics.  Mookoo loves to monkey around, sometimes at appropriate times and sometimes not.  Barley comes to understand that Mookoo needs to monkey around and tries to take it in stride.

 

Understanding and Maintaining Relationships

 

Value of Having Connections with Others

Needing others is a precursor to respect and consideration.  When we value being connected to our family and our friends, we learn that it is necessary to put effort into maintaining those relationships, which in turn, gives them more value.  Young children first learn to appreciate and love those in their world (close family and friends).  As they grow, their world grows too, to people they know, people they don’t, their community, their country and the universe as we know it.  We see examples of this repeatedly, such as when the bears struggle to make a gift for Barley’s birthday.  He is delighted by the presents which make the bears feel all the effort was well worth it.

 

Decision Making

Decision making is often discussed, as well as the emotional repercussions of friends throughout.  Barley plays the parental role, generating multiple solutions, and letting the bears choose on their own.  For example, when Mimi and Wobbly each want to play the tuba, it becomes an issue.  Barley suggests sharing.  The young bears know that sharing may not work well so decide to make a tuba built for two.

 

Communication

Good communication is necessary to maintaining relationships.  The bears often face issues of communication, be it Giggle who has a hard time speaking, a storyline of miscommunication or one bear finally understanding what the other was saying and echoing the idea to confirm this.

 

Personal Responsibility

Bears, like preschoolers, readily take credit for success and rarely for failure.  For example, Mimi makes a beautiful sculpture (that happens to include one of her own striped sneakers.)  She then can’t find the sneaker to go outside and blames everyone else.  When the sculpture is revealed, the bears discuss blame and responsibility.

 

Interaction and movement

In recent years, a criticism of children’s television is that television watching is a passive activity.  In our age of growing obesity and non-active pastimes, this has become a serious concern.  It is also difficult to be an active participant in a relationship without being willing to “join in” or participate in a social event.

 

TBS addresses this need by inviting children and their “loved ones, be they animal, blanket or human” to join in with the fun of the show.  There are plenty of musical interludes and fun, silly segments that the children viewing will want to engage in with their “viewing partner”.  It is always more fun to sing and dance with someone else, and many children do not see the television as a partner, but certainly their teddy or bunny or blanket fit that role. 

 

 

 

REFERENCES

 

Ackerman, B. P. & Izard, C. E. (2004).  Emotion cognition in children and adolescents: Introduction to the special issue.  Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 89, 271-275.

 

Denham, S. & Weissberg, R. (2003). Social-emotional learning in early childhood.  In M. Bloom & T. P. Gullotta (Eds.), A blueprint for the promotion of prosocial behavior in early childhood (pp. 13-50).  New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

 

Goleman, Daniel (1995).  Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ.  New York: Bantam.

 

Raver, C. C. & Knitze, J. (July 2002).  Promoting the Emotional Well-Being of Children and Families, Policy Paper No. 3. Ready to Enter: What Research Tells Policymakers About Strategies to Promote Social and Emotional School Readiness Among Three- and Four-Year-Old Children.  New York: National Center for Children in Poverty.

Teddy Bear School Research

Susan Morduch, Ph.D.

 

 

 

Character Education Background

 

Character education is reemerging in this nation as a valued and necessary component of our children’s education.  The question of how character education is best approached is currently being explored.  Educators mostly agree on the definition of character education and its variants (social-emotional learning, emotional intelligence, social emotional education, etc.)  They also agree on the ideal form of teaching character education, i.e., it should not be taught solely in schools, but needs to be addressed in schools, home and community. 

 

Character education is often presented as teaching instances of good character, e.g. be honest, be kind, share.  The skills behind these instantiations are less often focused upon, but are gaining greater importance through research.  For Teddy Bear School, these skills have been divided into three categories -- managing and understanding oneself, understanding others, and understanding and maintaining relationships. 

 

The goal of Teddy Bear School is to provide character education (within the framework of social-emotional development) for preschool children.  This is the basis upon which further academic learning can build.  It is very difficult to learn in school when one does not have the social and personal skills for self-management, let alone relating to others.  TBS also wants to reach out to parents and caregivers and invite them to further support character education, both during and after the program. Children who have highly developed social-emotional skills (such as self-awareness, social-awareness, mood management, empathy, responsible decision-making and relationship-management) are better able to succeed in a school setting. 

 

Teddy Bear School and Social Emotional Development

The foundation for social-emotional development is a secure attachment relationship.  While TBS cannot hope to meaningfully influence this relationship, the show is designed with attachment and bonding as the underlying foundation.

 

Teddy Bear School (TBS) is a modern show with old-fashioned appeal.  The setting, characters, and story lines are all designed to help children feel warm and welcome, while using that comfort level to encourage children to venture forth into the real world (especially school) with confidence. 

 

This world of Teddy Bears is a warm, safe place.  Teddies exist solely for the purpose of being a love object, a transitional object, an always-there-to-comfort-you friend.  The setting is home-like, in an old cluttered attic filled with all sorts of fascinating fun things hidden among the old familiar boxes and trunks of yesteryear.  In addition, the bears, Mookoo and Rackets function more as a family than as a school.

 

The issues the young bears face are those typical of the nursery school set – ones that involve managing and understanding themselves (e.g. being shy, afraid, overly excited, and what to do with those feelings), understanding others (jealousy, communication, differences) and understanding how we all relate to each other (friendship, respect, giving space, having fun).  These are the core processes in social-emotional development.

 

Managing and Understanding Oneself

 

Feelings

Preschoolers are easily overwhelmed with emotions. They don’t know what they are experiencing, nor how to return to their normal comfortable state.  Part of the process of mastering emotions is to label feelings.  Once they are recognized and familiar, they become less overwhelming and more manageable.

 

The Teddies in TBS display a wide variety of emotions.  Many of these emotions will be labeled and some of them will be the focus of an episode.  For example, on the first day of school, Giggle is afraid of her shadow.  She is too young to verbalize her fears, so the other bears empathetically search for the source of Giggle’s discomfort.  The bears explain the shadow to her and she eventually giggles at her new discovery.

 

Differences

Each character has clear strengths and weaknesses.  They are learning about themselves and how they fit into the TBS world.  For example, Wobbly fears that his wobbliness may prevent him from being a good teddy bear.  He learns that his physical abilities in no way impact upon his teddy bear skills. 

 

Perseverance

Wobbly Bear displays perseverance and doesn’t give up, despite difficulties.  Mimi though, is overly active and easily distractible.  The two characters learn how to interact and support each other accordingly.

 

Understanding Others

 

Empathy

Empathy is modeled in abundance in TBS, as teddy bears are naturally attuned to others.  Life can also be a bit more difficult for Giggle as she can’t communicate as well as the others.  In this case, we don’t see Giggle dealing with the issue (she’s too young), but the others talk about it.  They come to understand that Giggle is little and some things are more difficult for her.  In another episode, it is Giggle who tries to cheer up Wobbly.

 

Acceptance

This is often modeled in TBS, as it goes along with empathy.  It is sometimes discussed.  As mentioned above, the bears accept Wobbly and his wobbliness along with Giggle and her lack of communication skills.  One often sees Barley tolerating Mookoo’s antics.  Mookoo loves to monkey around, sometimes at appropriate times and sometimes not.  Barley comes to understand that Mookoo needs to monkey around and tries to take it in stride.

 

Understanding and Maintaining Relationships

 

Value of Having Connections with Others

Needing others is a precursor to respect and consideration.  When we value being connected to our family and our friends, we learn that it is necessary to put effort into maintaining those relationships, which in turn, gives them more value.  Young children first learn to appreciate and love those in their world (close family and friends).  As they grow, their world grows too, to people they know, people they don’t, their community, their country and the universe as we know it.  We see examples of this repeatedly, such as when the bears struggle to make a gift for Barley’s birthday.  He is delighted by the presents which make the bears feel all the effort was well worth it.

 

Decision Making

Decision making is often discussed, as well as the emotional repercussions of friends throughout.  Barley plays the parental role, generating multiple solutions, and letting the bears choose on their own.  For example, when Mimi and Wobbly each want to play the tuba, it becomes an issue.  Barley suggests sharing.  The young bears know that sharing may not work well so decide to make a tuba built for two.

 

Communication

Good communication is necessary to maintaining relationships.  The bears often face issues of communication, be it Giggle who has a hard time speaking, a storyline of miscommunication or one bear finally understanding what the other was saying and echoing the idea to confirm this.

 

Personal Responsibility

Bears, like preschoolers, readily take credit for success and rarely for failure.  For example, Mimi makes a beautiful sculpture (that happens to include one of her own striped sneakers.)  She then can’t find the sneaker to go outside and blames everyone else.  When the sculpture is revealed, the bears discuss blame and responsibility.

 

Interaction and movement

In recent years, a criticism of children’s television is that television watching is a passive activity.  In our age of growing obesity and non-active pastimes, this has become a serious concern.  It is also difficult to be an active participant in a relationship without being willing to “join in” or participate in a social event.

 

TBS addresses this need by inviting children and their “loved ones, be they animal, blanket or human” to join in with the fun of the show.  There are plenty of musical interludes and fun, silly segments that the children viewing will want to engage in with their “viewing partner”.  It is always more fun to sing and dance with someone else, and many children do not see the television as a partner, but certainly their teddy or bunny or blanket fit that role. 

 

 

 

REFERENCES

 

Ackerman, B. P. & Izard, C. E. (2004).  Emotion cognition in children and adolescents: Introduction to the special issue.  Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 89, 271-275.

 

Denham, S. & Weissberg, R. (2003). Social-emotional learning in early childhood.  In M. Bloom & T. P. Gullotta (Eds.), A blueprint for the promotion of prosocial behavior in early childhood (pp. 13-50).  New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

 

Goleman, Daniel (1995).  Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ.  New York: Bantam.

 

Raver, C. C. & Knitze, J. (July 2002).  Promoting the Emotional Well-Being of Children and Families, Policy Paper No. 3. Ready to Enter: What Research Tells Policymakers About Strategies to Promote Social and Emotional School Readiness Among Three- and Four-Year-Old Children.  New York: National Center for Children in Poverty.