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Bear Fear

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to:

  1. Recognize that lack of understanding or misinformation often leads to fear;
  2. realize that many things need not be feared but rather understood and respected;
  3. be aware of the need to question their information sources.

Method:

Through writing, simulated experiences and discussion, students will evaluate information sources and attitude changes that occur when accurate information is provided.

Background:

Educator needs accurate information on black bear behavior and habitat and also misinformation such as sensationalized stories from "Field & Stream," "Outdoor Life," "Man in the Wilderness" (attack scene), and anthropomorphic stories such as Goldilocks, Jungle Book, and Pooh Bear.

Materials:

  • Spray bottle
  • matches
  • videos
  • clips
  • slides
  • handouts
  • tape recording of animal sounds
  • loud fan

Ages: 5-12

Subjects: Ethics, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies, Psychology

Duration: Minimum of two class periods

Class Size: Any

Setting: Indoor

Fighting bears

Procedure:

first day

  1. Word association: (5 minutes)
    Give the students the following words individually (Keep this activity moving quickly).
    1. bears
    2. grizzly
    3. polar
    4. black
    5. panda
    6. teddy
  2. Writing: (5 minutes)
    Describe a black bear - make me hear it, see it, feel it, smell it. (Not interested in grammar, sentence structure.) Give a description that makes me understand your bear.
  3. Share descriptions (10 minutes) and discuss where the students' ideas come from; i.e., why do you think a bear is like that?
  4. Use the following procedure (5 minutes) to simulate an experience that can invite momentary fear based on inadequate information.
    1. quickly blacken room.
    2. start loud fan to cover up other noise.
    3. play a tape with loud bear noises (primal) coyotes, wolves.
  5. Write feelings and thoughts about what students just went through (not a paragraph).
  6. Share feelings and process: Should be a guarded discussion. Ask if students were uneasy, uncomfortable, frightened.

    If the discussion flows well, the following feelings will surface; uneasiness, momentary fear, anger, confusion.

    The teacher should ask if any students experienced any of those things. What are some other things that make you feel uncomfortable? Why? (e.g., lightning, water, snakes, spiders, thunder, bats).

    Teacher should ask "Why do you think we just did that?" Then explain that we were trying to simulate a situation that would make you uncomfortable, fearful because you didn't have enough information.
  7. Repeat lights-out process: Tell students beforehand what will happen.
  8. Discuss thoughts and feelings and how they differ knowing beforehand what is going to happen.

second day

  1. Review first day's activities in reverse, especially the situation where they didn't have enough information. Have students refer back to their bear descriptions.
  2. Provide misinformation: clips, videos, stories, e.g. any stories that sensationalize bears. Also, Jungle Book and Pooh Bear stories: talk about source of information (or stories that lump all bear into one category).
  3. Then, provide accurate information using available sources. Emphasize black bears need not be feared, just respected. Based on the experience of the last two days, develop an essay that compares and contrasts their attitudes on black bears.
  4. Write a new evaluation description of a black bear based on new knowledge of bears. Write a paragraph about how peoples' attitudes and knowledge can affect their actions.

Extension:

Have students choose an animal or element of nature that they feel is feared unjustifiably and research it to obtain information to try and change their attitudes.

Many thanks to Idaho Fish and Game and Project WILD for all of their help in this project. Information for this site developed from "WILD ABOUT BEARS", and is copyrighted by Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Idaho Project WILD. Permission obtained and granted to use this material for educational purposes. Photographic images were provided by the Department of Fish and Game and various other sources.

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