All roads lead to home
From Wootton Bassett to Alabama, to New Zealand, Singapore and the Maldives - and this was just the beginning of the journey - the class of M2 at St Bartholomew's C of E primary school in Wiltshire have witnessed a round-the-world trip of which they are very proud. "We sent him round the world," Rachel, aged six, archly told me and pointed to the "him" in question: Jeremy Bear, a soft, standard size, yellow-wool teddy. It was a project begun by the school as part of the theme work of the term, "Journeying". Jeremy Bear, wearing a blue backpack containing a disposable camera and a log book, was given to the father of one of the children, who was going to America on business.
From there it was up to fate. Placed around Jeremy's neck was an introduction for strangers to the school's project, asking for his return to England by March 18. The aim was to record the bear's journey. Its success and his safe return relied on the goodwill of individuals who adopted him on their own travels, entered his adventures in the log book, filled his backpack with tourist mementoes and took photographs of the travelling bear.
The enthusiasm generated among the five to seven-year-olds who have followed the bear's adventures is immense and the basic geographical skills and ideas required of them at key stage 1 have received an energetic boost. Having been successfully returned, Jeremy is now on display in the class, a large globe beside him and a world map behind, the extent of his travelling drawn on both in black felt-tip pen.
"It's helped the children to understand the world as a sphere, how a flat map relates to the globe. They're excited about atlases now," explained headmaster Steve Hannath. The project has made their geography lessons meaningful by introducing them in this fun way to different methods of travel in a journey, the scale and diversity of geographical features and, especially, by introducing them to a landscape broader than their Wiltshire surroundings.
While the bear travelled around the world, the school received faxes from strangers charting his progress and a class keenly referred to maps, asking questions like "Where could he go next?"; "What could he do there?" Safely home, Jeremy is surrounded by the contents of his backpack: colourful postcards of wild animals and unfamiliar locations, foreign currencies from Asia and Africa, boat, helicopter tickets, aeroplane boarding passes. The log book is full of anecdotes about Jeremy written by airline pilots, hotel staff, teachers and pupils. Out of all the souvenirs, it is the display of photographs that has captured the children's imagination and made them curious about the world. They point to their favourite scenes: in Alabama, Jeremy is seen outside the Huntsville Space Centre, a space shuttle in the background; in Nairobi, on top of an elephant at an elephant orphanage; catching a 700-pound marlin in New Zealand's Bay of Islands; on a hovercraft to the Isle of Wight; in a helicopter flying over the Maldives; and in an exotic garden in Singapore.
The school is planning to send Jeremy around the world again and to use the project for pupils at key stage 2, analysing in detail the countries visited. However, the project is not without risks and, the headmaster warned, does rely on a responsible adult to take charge. Sent out at the same time as Jeremy Bear was another travelling animal. Sadly, so far, Mossie Monster is still lost somewhere in Puerto Rico.