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Bears take over Smith Elementary

Students wait to go into kindergarten hall. There’s no better way to learn about the letter B than to bring a few bears to life. And that’s exactly what happened at Smith Elementary as the kindergarten students brought their stuffed animals for a sleep over and they took over the school.

Kindergarten lead teacher Michelle McCord got the idea for a bear sleepover when she attended a Frog Street Press workshop, and she and her co-workers have been doing it for their students for the last 25 years.

“The students bring their bears on Thursday, and we learn about the letter B and all about bears,” she said. “And then the bears spend the night, and school ‘magic’ takes over.”

According to Mrs. McCord, there’s quite a bit of buildup to prepare for the bears and the ensuing chaos caused when the bears take over.

“On Thursday, the bears move around throughout the day,” she said. “After the kids have gone to recess and lunch, they come back and the bears were not where they left them, so they get a little hint about school magic.”

The teachers even tell the students to warn their bears that they better behave while they are gone.
“The best part is probably seeing the kids’ reaction and their faces when they see what the bears have done,” Mrs. McCord said.

As the kindergarten students gathered Friday morning outside their hall, they knew something was up.


“Maybe the bears turned out the lights because they kept moving around yesterday,” said kindergartener Kaiden Maxwell as the students waited for someone to unlock the door to the kindergarten classroom area.

Bears leave a sign. kids crawl under sign to get to rooms. “You guys were supposed to talk to your bears last night,” Ms. McCord told the students as they were all wide-eyed waiting to see what was beyond those doors. “I think they were naughty. They even locked the doors. I bet there is a lot to clean up.”

Kindergartener Mattison Morrison almost couldn’t contain herself because of all the giggles about what the bears might have done.

“When we would leave the room yesterday, the bears would move to another spot,” Mattison said. “They did that two times.”

Once the doors opened, the students were greeted with a sign that read, “Bearz rule, kids drool.”


Smith Principal Rachel Nicks was on hand for the excitement.

“This is my favorite day of the year,” she said. “I love seeing the wonderment on their faces. It makes me wish I could be like them all the time.”

According to kindergarten teacher Halie Campbell, this will be a great memory for the students.

Albion Troci finds his bear. “I got to experience this as a student, because I went to school in Princeton,” said Campbell, who attended Lacy when it was the only elementary school in town. “I can still tell you what my bear was doing when I got to school that day. He had built a castle out of blocks.”

When the students were unleashed on the kindergarten hall, there were cheers and squeals as they saw the balloons, streamers and confetti the bears had left behind. One student screamed, “My bear was naughty.”

Kindergarten teacher Kim Anthony was there more than 15 years ago when her own two daughters brought their bears to school for the annual sleepover, then she solicited their help years later.

“My girls loved it so much that when they got older, they wanted to help me create the bear chaos,” she said. “My daughter Bailey spent a long time one year building a train because she knew my student, Nolan, loved trains. She wanted his bear to make him a train.”

In Mrs. Anthony’s classroom this year, there were bears reading, and there was even a Care Bear birthday party complete with snacks.

“We already warned the kids,” Mrs. Anthony said. “When you make a mess in your room, you have to clean it up, so when their bears make a mess, it’s their job to clean up and put it back the way it was.”

About the photos:

The students anxiously await for someone to unlock the doors to their hallway so they can see what the bears have done behind the sign that reads, “Bearz rule, kids drool.”

Once inside, the students crawl under, then tear down the sign to be welcomed by balloons, streamers and confetti. They them must wait for the classroom doors to be opened, because a message reads, “No kids allowed.”

Levon points to his bear. Payton Shipp finds her bear. Albion Troci finds his bear under a makeshift fort built of mats and blankets.

When Levon Munyui searches the room, he points in amazement when he finds his bear atop the shelves.

Payton Shipp finds her bear swinging from the ceiling.

Rileigh Bloodworth can’t believe there was a birthday party with snacks for her Care Bear.

Olivia McLemore and Adria Reddick find their bears reading.