Be Excited About Reading (BEAR) Parent Night at Acorn Elementary School focused on encouraging students to learn and read about black bears. Students in grades K-3 and their parents were guided by their teachers to three different stations.
Pat Knighten, Project Wild Coordinator for Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, explained why Arkansas used to be called the Bear State. Hunting in the 1800s led to a drastic reduction in the bear population. Bear fat, rather than the meat and fur, was a prized commodity used for fuel, insect repellant, perfume, and even hair gel. In the 1960s the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission released 256 black bears from Minnesota and Canada to restore the bear populations. A short video clip showed the status of bears in Arkansas now. Students were given AGFC backpacks and other materials.
Sheila Connerly, AGFC Education Specialist, enlightened students and parents regarding habitats suitable for bears in western Arkansas. The need for food, water, shelter, and space are met in the Ouachita National Forest. Students created bandanas to illustrate bear habitats.
Bernie Soliz, AGFC Wildlife Officer, used Molly, an actual bear display, to explain how bears use their five senses to find food. Participants were given hunting regulations and methods relating to bear season in Polk County, as well as safety information for bear encounters. Students were given trading cards with information about a bear scientist for the U.S. Forest Service.
Would you eat a cricket? Black Bears prefer to eat insects, plants, nuts, and berries, and occasionally meat. Judy Newcomb and Kathy Rusert gave crickets, mealworms, honey, and bottled water for attendees to try. A grant from Walmart furnished funds to purchase books about bears to give the students.
BEAR Night at Acorn Elementary School was a tremendous success with over 200 students and parents attending.