Bamboo Forest Dramatic Play

There are over 1600 species of bamboo around the world.

A member of the grass family, it is found on every continent except Europe and Antarctica.

Bamboo’s resilience, versatility, and unique ability to grow quickly and create complex root systems make it a vital species in its native ecosystem.

It provides a habitat for biodiversity, reduces land degradation, stabilizes slopes, and produces oxygen, absorbs heavy metals, sequesters carbon, and has over 1000 uses – including replacing plastics, paper, and wood.

As part of our Forest Bears week, we decided to explore this fascinating ecosystem.

To do so, students wore panda bear masks.

They were also encouraged to interact with our “real” bamboo forest – a collection of bamboo stalks “planted” at the school.

Bear Dens

Bears den in a variety of places.  They investigate possible den sites throughout the summer.


If a bear is disturbed during the winter, it will often move directly to another den. Standing hollow trees are favorite denning spots, but few trees are allowed to reach the mature stage at which the center rots and becomes hollow.


Such trees can be found in portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northeastern Minnesota, especially where they were fire-scarred a half century or more ago.


Rock crevices and caves are also used as dens, and these can remain useable for centuries, but usually not by the same bear


Dens are also dug into hillsides or under the root system of a tree.  These dens may be dug during the summer months, long before they are needed.


Dug dens often collapse after use and therefore are seldom reused. As part of our Bear week, we created bear caves using sand blocks, soil, rocks, and pine cones. Everyone enjoyed manipulating the blocks to create the perfect home!


Black Bear Forests

The American black bear is the smallest of the three bears species found in North America, and are found only in North America.


Black bears have short, non-retractable claws that give them an excellent tree-climbing ability.


Black bear fur is usually a uniform color except for a brown muzzle and light markings that sometimes appear on their chests.


Eastern populations are usually black in color while western populations often show brown, cinnamon, and blond coloration in addition to black.


Black bears with white-bluish fur are known as Kermode (glacier) bears and these unique color phases are only found in coastal British Columbia, Canada.


Panda Bear Sanctuary

For this activity, we combined bamboo, rocks, and dirt to learn about panda bears!


By using these materials, we created habitats for our little creatures and learned a new word: omnivore!


Physiologically, giant pandas are carnivores — they are made to eat meat — but they prefer a vegetarian diet.


Herbivores are, by definition, anatomically suited to a plant-based diet.


The giant panda is no herbivore. He’s essentially a vegetarian, a carnivore that eats little meat.


Throughout the activity, your little explorers delighted in manipulating the materials, and providing the perfect home for their little panda bear.


Group projects (such this one) can help preschoolers develop a host of skills that are increasingly important in their budding development.


Properly structured, group projects can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to break complex tasks into parts and steps, refine understanding through discussion and explanation, and develop stronger communication skills.






Sequencing Bears

Young children are constantly assessing the patterns in their worlds.


From how items fit together, to the similarities between objects in their environments, their awareness of logic and order compose a significant part of their play. To cultivate this, we used a variety of colored bears to create sequences!

Sequence 1

Sequencing hosts an array of developmental benefits; it enables your little one to see how items are alike and different; it helps visual acuity; AND, it fosters critical thinking skills. This activity consisted of students matching bears to a diagram. Each diagram contained a missing item, and it was up to the student to determine what item it was. Through some trial and error, we enjoyed manipulating a variety of colorful bears, laughing and learning in the process!

Sequence 2

Coffee Ground Bears

Sensory painting is a great sensory art activity that appeals not only to the visual side of your child, but to his olfactory sense as well.


This kind of “sensory” art is so important for children,  giving them a way to examine, discover, categorize and make sense of the world around them.


For this activity, we painted brown bears with coffee grounds and white paint.


Using paint brushes, students “scooped” the coffee grounds and paint onto their papers, creating their very own brown bears!


Bear Caves – Small World Play

Small world play occurs when children use miniature items such as toys, found objects, or replicas to act out scenes or ideas from real life, stories, or books.



Small worlds often include sensory elements which add even more depth to the experience and create more opportunities for language stimulation.



For this activity, we boxes, and then used these boxes to act out all that we have been learning about brown bears!



Each cave came with a several toy bears, and was decorated with wood chips and green rice to represent grass.



This activity was open-ended, which means that your little ones were given the freedom to explore and create their own experience.





Habitat Sorting

The materials we choose to bring into our classroom reveal the choices we have made about knowledge and what we think is important to know. How children are invited to use the materials indicates the role they shall have in their learning. Materials are the text of early childhood classrooms.


Unlike books filled with facts and printed with words, materials are more like outlines. They offer openings and pathways by and through which children may enter the world of knowledge. Materials become the tools with which children give form to and express their understanding of the world and the meanings they have constructed.

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It is for this reason that almost all of our thematic activities are hands-on. We often integrate manipulatives, story trays, and natural materials to help your little one gain an understanding of the theme of the week.


For this activity, we used toy creatures and pictures of different habitats to practice comparing and contrasting environments. Students were given four different pictures. One included a picture of a desert, another a picture of a jungle, another a picture of an arctic scene, and finally a picture of a savannah. Students were then invited to sort and place their creatures in the environment that their creature might prefer.


Polar Bear Gloves – A Lesson on Blubber

Polar Bears deposit most of their body fat into a thick layer of blubber – a layer of fat reinforced by fibrous connective tissue that lies just below the skin.


The blubber layer insulates the polar bear and streamlines its body. It also functions as an energy reserve.


Using rubber gloves, our hands, and ice water, we learned about how our polar bear friends stay warm in their cold environments!


We first dipped our hands into icy water, and talked about words associated with the cold, such as ice, chilly, frozen, icy, and snow!


We then talked about what blubber was, and compared it to a thick rubber glove. After that, we put on a rubber glove and dipped our hands again into the water.


Each child was then asked whether or not their hand felt warmer or colder with the glove on.


Lastly, we talked about other uses for blubber and why some animals need to protect themselves from the cold.


This activity allowed your adventurer to explore the concept of animal adaptations through investigation and application.


Ursus Maritimus

Your little one participated in yet another fun sensory activity!


Using insta-snow,  rocks, and  toy polar bears, your little one created their very own winter wonderland!


We began this activity with a discussion and review of the various bears that we have been learning about this week.


We then talked about the polar bear and the kind of environments that the polar bear prefers.


Our discussion concluded with a review of the new vocabulary that we have been learning, such as glacier, blubber, the Arctic Circle, and carnivore.


Your little explorer then happily constructed the perfect living space for their arctic creature.


This was the definite favorite for the week, as your little one applied their understanding of various vocabulary and scientific concepts.