Sugar is small, tiny enough to fit in the hands of the youngest child, but he is a mighty force in education. Every time I begin a Prelude Program, Sugar is there to serve as a friend and mascot. His full name is actually Sugar the Inspiration Bear because his job is to inspire creativity in the kids who adore him. Each student gets to hold Sugar as he brainstorms the next part of our story. It is a simple thing, but being given permission to hold and cuddle a tiny furry thing is sometimes a treat for the kids I work with. It also gives them something to focus on while they think. Creating your own story is hard - creating it with about 20 of your classmates is sometimes even harder. Sugar is great at whispering creative inspiration into ears. Even those who believe they are too tough and cool for teddy bears inevitably smile when it is their turn to hold him.
Sugar has become incredibly popular. While he normally wears a red ribbon, he has quite a wardrobe by now, including a green ribbon to ward off St. Patrick's Day pinches. When I return to each classroom, I am bombarded with questions of, "Did you bring Sugar Bear with you?" When I pull him out of my bag, there are always squeals of joy. As I work with more and more children, I am beginning to run into my students in public: at the mall, in the grocery store, at Target. More than once have I been asked if I have Sugar Bear with me.
But Sugar Bear hasn't always been so famous. He started his life humbly, wearing a tiny AC-DC t-shirt in a claw machine at a gas station in West Virginia. My dear husband, who was then my fiance, won me this bear to cheer me up as we drove further and further away from our families. A few days later, when preparing to teach, I wanted to play a game called "Talking Ball," but I didn't have a ball at my apartment. I grabbed the AC-DC bear, took off his T-shirt and tied a ribbon around his neck. The sweet little brown bear was dubbed Sugar Bear on a whim as I introduced him to the class. Little did I know what I had begun!
Over the past three years, Sugar has starred in many stories and is currently starring as ruler of his own kingdom in one play at Rothenberg School. He is an excellent example of how the smallest and most unexpected things can make such a difference. Sugar now has hundreds of small friends, has received thousands of hugs and kisses, and will forever be so much more than just a bear from a machine.
Sugar is successful in much the same way the Muppets are. How many of us remember vividly our favorite skit in Sesame Street? (Mine involved the Count counting sheep, which were simply tossed over his bed, limp little legs flailing madly.)
Do you recall learning about death from the sad residents of Sesame Street when Mr. Hooper passed away?
Small and furry though puppets and Sugar Bears may be, they are able to speak to children in ways that adults just can't sometimes. I don't know all of the things Sugar has whispered into the ears of my students these last three years, nor do I know all of the things they have whispered back into his, but I do know that that bear is made of much more than fur and stuffing.