It is not always easy to be a Teddy Bear.
You have to learn how, there is only one place where you can do that.
Teddy Bear School
These instructive and delightful fictions transport preschool children to a delightful enchanted setting where they join our young teddy bears: Wobbly, Mimi and Giggle and their teacher, Barley each day for misadventures and tons of fun.
Children will be welcomed with open paws to play, sing, dance and laugh with Mookoo, the “cuckoo” monkey, Rackets (a very helpful cat) and other fascinating characters. Through hilarious stories and memorable songs our warm and fuzzy friends deliver our whole hearted ‘emotional intelligence’ education curriculum.
The Appeal of Teddy Bear School
The overall goal of this project is to give young children tools they can cognize to express their emotions and further to begin to name and understand them. Studies have shown the importance of effective early character education as an integral part of our children’s development. At the preschool level it delivers a foundation that facilitates later classroom learning. In order to be effective however, preschool character education must be engaging to children, memorable and developmentally appropriate. This property invents an irresistible learning environment. Expressed in story and song and inspiring creativity in art, music and dance it demonstrates to preschool children how to connect with others and learn to express themselves.
The iconography of the teddy bear is unique. Teddy bears have the ability to simultaneously give children the feeling of both being childlike and being ‘bigger than’. As transference objects they allow for pretend role play where children are the authority figure, while later that very same day, the bears become snuggle objects that help children feel secure as they go to sleep.
Clearly teddy bears and children have a very strong bond. In fact children often feel they understand teddy bears in ways that grown-ups do not. Yet adults do understand teddy bears, and they recognize in their children’s eyes the warmth and love brought on by these stuffed bears. One cannot see a teddy bear and not feel that emotion.
Each of the characters has some kind of issue that challenge them. For two it appears as different forms of ADHD. Another is mildly physically challenged. Our youngest character is dyslexic. The ongoing short chapter/stories describe our characters encountering different ordinary problems for which they seek solutions. After several unsuccessful (often humorous) attempts they find a working solution by working together.
Original and memorable songs are often part of the stories. Children are attracted to music often singing to themselves for amusement. They will strive to remember the words and listen to their favorite songs again and again and feeling comfort when they are memorized. This serves to increase vocabulary and will conform to our EI curriculum.
Children also love physical comedy. Our stories will use these old school gags to keep children engaged.
All together this “world” has an instantaneous effect on children. Because children recognize the teddy bear for all it represents, they become immediately engaged. Having gained our audience’s attention, our characters can now tell their musical tales of (mis)understanding, building self-esteem and perseverance (among others) in ways that be will remembered.
Teddy Bear School™
The story behind the story
Setting the scene
Teddy Bear School takes place in the top of an old house where one family (never seen) has lived for generations. The School is headed by Barley and is attended by three student Bears: Wobbly, Mimi and Giggle. Rackets, the family cat, is part of this secret life, and helps out while MooKoo, the cuckoo-clock dwelling monkey, tries to help, and definitely adds to the fun!
Barley is a well-loved old Teddy Bear who was stored for years in the attic, never quite forgotten, but no longer part of daily life. The long ago child who loved Barley as his Teddy is now all grown up, married and the father of three children. During those long quiet years in storage, Barley kept busy observing the state of the family home from his attic sanctuary.
Naturally, each of the children of the house now have their own special Teddy Bears, but Barley has noticed that something is not quite right. Wobbly, Mimi and Giggle each belongs to, and is dedicated to, one of the children in this happy family.
Perhaps there was some magic in their stuffing, or perhaps it was in the loving care and hand stitching with which they were made, but the handmade Bears from Barley’s generation were instilled with an instinctive understanding of the needs of children. The vast lore of the Teddy was passed down to them.
Barley, however came to realize that although the new “modern” Teddy Bears of the house showed plenty of promise, there was something missing. They needed help and training before they could be all that Teddy Bears can be. Someone needed to teach them all about the heart and the soul of Teddy Bearing. It’s true that Bear’s will be Bears’, but sometimes youngsters need a little extra help.
Barley had found his new mission in life. So, with the help of Rackets, the family cat, Barley cobbled together a school room fashioned out of old toys and other bits and pieces of wonderful stuff. He created a special “pre-school” to help these new Bears find their inner Teddies and learn to become “proper” Teddy Bears for the children in their lives.
Teddy Bear School is only in session when the children are safely away and off on their own adventures. As we all know Teddy Bears and children have a special connection. They usually know when they’re needed so everyone involved tries very hard to never let a child come home to a missing Bear.
We can’t speak for certain but have heard whispers and tales suggesting that Teddy Bear schools like this are hidden in the odd corners of homes all over the world, where ever there are young children with Teddy Bears who might need a little help.
How Teddy Bears Work
Teddy Bears have a life of their own, as you have probably always suspected. This really should come as no surprise considering how much love has been invested in them over the years. Although they have different ages, some are babies, some are toddlers and some are almost 6, they do not seem to age. Although they learn a lot, they always have lots left to learn!
When Teddy Bears speak to each other they use vivid expressions and words that are unique to Bears. The friendly greeting “T’dy!” is especially characteristic. They use other words in special Teddy ways. You hear them talk a lot about “Warm-Fuzzies”, for instance, meaning any act of kindness, especially when done to cheer up someone who’s feeling down. The students tend to let out an exclamatory “Plush!” whenever excited by how cool something is. Some words are quite versatile. In addition to its use as a stand-alone noun, “Teddy’ is often used as an adjective to praise any thing, action, idea, that is especially Teddy Bearish, kind, or nice. “Thank you, Mimi, that was very Teddy.”
The characters relate strongly to our home audience as well as to each other. They’ve never heard of the ‘fourth wall’. By addressing comments, questions and invitations to the children, Teddy Bear School creates a welcoming environment and stimulates a participatory experience that is both active and interactive engaging children’s imagination.
Teddy Bear School is located in a corner of a large jam-packed attic. No one in the “family” actually goes up there, and in fact we never see or hear any human at all. Instead, the attic is a magically removed space where the school can exist with no danger of discovery.
Like all normal attics, though, it is chock full of all sorts of cool old stuff. When a family continues to live in the same house for several generations a, shall we say ‘interesting’, collection of bits and bobs tends to accumulate in the attic.
But here in our Teddy Bear School world, all of these forgotten treasures become transformed into a schoolroom and playground. There is a “gym” type area with swings hanging from the rafters. A trunk filled with old clothes provides costumes for dress ups. Some loosely arranged boxes become a stage. An oversized child’s train set circumnavigates the entire space. There is an old carved bookcase full of books, a wagon, a toy wheelbarrow, a doll sized tea set, an old wooden children’s desk and chairs, arts and crafts supplies, and with a bit of imagination, just about everything else the Teddy Bears need for each story. A colorful child-size chalk board provides an animated window into the worlds beyond the classroom.
Meet the Characters
Sample Story Lines
A Tuba Built For Two
Mimi and Wobbly both want to play the tuba in the upcoming Parade. Barley suggests that they take turns. That sounds ok, but they come up with a better idea: why not make a tuba they can both play! Using odds and ends around the attic, they invent a two Bear horn. One mouthpiece plays high notes, and one plays low. They call it the Two-Ba. The Bears have their parade and the home audience joins in.
Barley the Birthday Bear
It’s going to be Barley’s birthday and the students are all very excited. What to make for his present? They try a few things and have some trouble getting them just right, especially when they follow MooKoo’s advice. But working together they come up with a few really cute presents, which Barley just loves.
Additional Story Ideas (grouped by underlying goal)
Understanding Self (feelings, differences, perseverance)
I Wish I Was Little Again
Leaving (Via Transportation)
Brave (Like a Teddy Bear)
Trying New Foods
(You Can Do It) If You Try
Understanding Others (empathy, acceptance)
Tumble Sault - We Learn How to Tumble
Swing, Seesaw and Climb
Maintaining Relationships (connections, communication, decision making, personal responsibility, interaction)
What Are Teddy Bears For?
A Letter In The Mail
Teddy Bear parade
Doug Pell - creator/Exec Producer
Doug conceived and created the concept for Teddy Bear School based on the songs from his critically acclaimed CD, Teddy Bear Tunes. Before stepping into the world of children, Doug’s roots were always in music. A musician himself, he also owned a booking agency handling artists like Wilson Picket, Martha Reeves, Ben E. King, Mary Wells and Sam & Dave. As owner of Giant Sound Recording Studio he worked with hundreds of musicians over the years—from Sting and Keith Richards to Queen Latifah and Missy Elliot.
Susan Morduch – childhood development specialist
Susan has a Ph.D. in school psychology from Columbia University (Teachers College) with a focus on early childhood. She has worked as a consultant to Head Start Programs and preschools, with a children’s mental health clinic and has led children’s weight loss groups. As a mother of three children she has direct experience with children’s television habits.
Doug Zwick – writer
Doug was a senior programmer at The Disney Channel for ten years, before founding Pop Twist Entertainment. His Disney projects won an Academy Award, two Grammys, and 20 Emmys. These included the Oscar-winning documentary feature, Anne Frank Remembered and the Rotten Ralph specials which went on to win two Pulcinellas, along with nominations for a BAFTA and a BAA. He executive produced the Wilf - The Witch's Dog series, and helped develop The Secret World of Benjamin Bear. Zwick has provided extensive writing and creative consultation for such series as Titeuf, Wombat City, and The Way Things Work.
Paul Andrejco – puppet designer
An internationally known character and puppet designer for movies, television and theater whose clients include Nickelodeon, Disney, Granada Kids and Sesame Workshop, he has worked for several years at The Jim Henson Company where he created characters for the Emmy Award winning television series Bear in the Big Blue House among countless other projects including "The Muppet Christmas Carol & Muppets Tonight. He then went to Shadow Projects where he developed new and innovative techniques and puppet characters for Disney's The Book of Pooh and other experimental projects involving the integration of puppetry with digital technology. He is currently the puppet maker for the new Muppets Films and TV show (Fall 2015).
David Gurney – animation producer
David Gurney co-founded the award winning cartoon studio, Blue Rocket. He created, wrote, and directed Australia's first 3D animated TV series Hoota & Snoz and another ten cartoon series including Hoota & Snoz series 2 & 3, The Dog and Cat News Worldwide series 1 & 2, Mormel TV series 2,3,4 & 5, Time Cracks series 1 & 2, offbeat series Bang the Cat, and a number of short animated films including Bugalug’s Journey, The Further Adventures of Stafford the Prawn, Hoota & Snoz – A Petty Matter, and Australian satire Spikey Joe’s Truck. Blue Rocket’s programs are broadcast in over 100 countries worldwide.
Doug Epstein – musical arranger/recordist
Doug brings 25 years of experience in audio recording, mixing and arranging. His credits include Sesame Street Live, Born to Add LP. Among the many, many recordings he has done his credits include the Free to be Family recordings with the host of celebrities they feature.