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First Grade teacher Ken Dow had a bear of a year, and he has the bear stories to prove it. In June, his students presented their multi-media research projects on the bear species of their choice. Each student had a poster, diorama, skit or model, and gave an oral presentation before an audience of parents, siblings, and fellow classmates.

Amilia McNiff, Brianna Dimond, Katie Hart, Terell Woodson, Jared Terrio, Cordelia Street, Colman Richards and Kailyn Bearce did their projects on polar bears. Amilia explained that the polar bear’s hair is clear and reflects light on sunny days, and that the bears’ black skin traps heat and keeps it warm. Brianna shared that they are the largest land-based carnivores, and that they eat large animals such as seals and reindeer. Katie stated that the male polar bear can weigh well over 900 pounds and females up to 500 pounds. She added a riddle: “Where do Polar Bears keep their money? In a snow bank!”

Jared explained that the polar bear is one of eight species of bears. Cordelia added that they can swim very fast, and that when they are cubs, they drink their mothers’ milk. Colman shared that the polar bear can walk on thin ice by crawling on its belly, spreading its weight out more evenly so that it won’t break through the ice.

Beatriz Masuna told the audience that she likes grizzly bears. She said that some could stand up to 10 feet tall on their back feet.

Tyler Sargent shared that the giant panda has to eat bamboo, spending up to 16 hours eating 40 pounds of it per day. Jamie Kosakowski added that the giant panda lives in the mountains of China. “The babies are cute and squeal,” she said. Tatum Desalvo also likes pandas, and described how they climb up the bamboo.

Emma McCarthy chose to research the spectacled bear, which, she said, eats berries, grasses, and orchid bulbs. Anthony Estes, Dillon Granberg, Patrick Polack, and Katherine Sabatino reported on American black bears. They learned that they are the most common species of bear, and that they are not generally dangerous to humans. They shared that they eat mostly plants, fruits, nuts, insects, and honey, and that they don’t see well and can live to be 30 years old.

Lila McDougall’s clay model of a spectacled bear illustrated its unique markings, which, she said, are different for each bear. She reported that they are the most endangered species of bear.

Lydia Scheufele reported that the sun bear is the smallest bear in the world, weighing only 60 to 140 pounds. She said that the rain rolls off of their thick fur, that they do not hibernate, and that they spend much of their time in trees.

Andrew Spiezio’s presentation on the Kodiak bear, also known as the Alaskan grizzly, was a puppet show, which ended in “Roar!”

“I have seen huge improvements from the beginning of the year to here. I’ll definitely miss this group of kids,” said Dow after the presentations, barely containing his pride. The students were obviously proud of their accomplishments, too. They all left the classroom with smiles on their faces — and bears in their arms.