The students all learn to memorize and recite the humorous poem and many never forget it, even years later.
Some continue to return to the school as they get older to join Budwill and her class at the annual Polar Bear Poem Party, where they get the opportunity to recite the poem once again.
This special event was set in motion 18 years ago.
“My second graders memorize and recite poems every week,” explains Budwill. “We keep a poetry notebook and frequently reread our favorites. For some reason, my first class really loved and remembered the Polar Bear poem. The next year when my class was reciting it, the third graders wanted to return and say it with them. So they did.
“Then the following year, the third and fourth graders returned to recite with us, and the tradition just continued. Now we have students from Kenmore Junior High, Northshore Junior High, Inglemoor and once in a while, even college students who return. We only recite that one poem every year at this event.”
Last year, Budwill notes there were over 100 students who participated. She adds, “I think they return for the tradition, the polar bear cookies, the prizes for seniors and the fun!”
The children in Budwill’s current class recite first. Then each group follows in grade level order. Seniors recite last and each receives a small remembrance token. Then everyone eats cookies and Budwill gets a chance to visit with her former students.
Take Chloe Jarvis, for example. The Kenmore Junior High ninth grader has been coming to the event since she was in second grade.
“Mrs. Budwill is one of my favorite teachers,” she says. “She’s really the only teacher I know who does something like this and I think it’s just so memorable for the kids. It brings everyone back together. And the poem is so cute and catchy, too.”
Lindsay Starostka has attended the party every year except one. She says, “It’s just such a great tradition and Mrs. Budwill is a wonderful teacher. I student taught for her last year and it was such a good learning experience. She handles kids so well and knows how to discipline without sounding mean. She is really skilled in the classroom.”
Kaitlyn Hollis, also a senior at IHS, is another veteran of the event. “I never missed a year,” she notes. “I love the poem and the tradition is unique and special. It’s something I wanted to do ever since I was in second grade and heard about it.”
Budwill describes the event as “organized chaos,” but comments that it is very heartwarming for her to see the interest kids have for both the poem and the tradition.
The local teacher believes that reading and memorizing poetry builds basic reading skills, such as phonics, rhyming, phrasing and fluency. She also feels that it strengthens memory practice and increases one’s confidence in the ability to stand and recite in a group.
She adds, “Memorizing a poem gives students a feeling of accomplishment and pride.”
Budwill’s class studies polar bears and other Arctic animals as part of their nonfiction reading and informational writing unit. Additionally, they spend time discussing global warming and the plight of the polar bears, as well as incorporate this learning with some map study skills.
The Polar-y Bear
By Shel Silverstein
There’s a polar-y bear
In the fridge-idy -dare.
He likes it ‘cause it’s cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his hairy old paw in the buttery dish.
Well, he’s sucking up the noodles
And he’s munching on the rice
And he’s slurping up the sodas
And he’s crunching on the ice.
When you open the door,
He gives out a ROAR!
It gives me a scare
To know he’s in there
The polar-y bear
In the fridge-idy -dare.