Now in its second year, Bear Connection has transformed. Here’s why and how.
BY EZRA LIU ’24
“What’s up bears, it’s time for Bear Connection!” Those eight words, enthusiastically broadcast after fifth period every Friday, became icon-ic in UAHS. They heralded the start of a new, 20-minute class, one which would prove controversial not only among students, but also among the whole of UAHS. Now, the pro-gram has undergone various changes, with its basic goal in-tact: to help better connect students to one another.
In the past, Bear Connection was held every Friday for 20 minutes, in a class consisting of 15 to 20 students from each grade. Originally, the group of students were intended to remain consistent for all four years of high school, along with the teacher leading the class. During the time period, students would play games, complete projects or meet with other Bear Connections for group activities. While some saw the program as an enjoyable break on a Friday after-noon, others thought that the time felt awkward or forced.
“I’d rather it [have been] with people I know in-stead of random people I got placed in a class with,” said Zach Root, a junior who participated in the original Bear Connection last year. “I didn’t know the teacher at all, which didn’t help when they tried to start conversations or play games with us.”
Because of input from students, as well as other is-sues, staff in charge decided to change the program for the 2022-23 school year.
This year, Bear Connection will be held following various class periods throughout the year, on Wednesday ev-ery week. On Aug. 31, students met with their first period class for 20 minutes after the end of the period. A week later, on Sept. 7, Bear Connection will be held during second period, followed by third period the week after, and so on. During this time the class will engage in activities decided by the teacher of that week’s Bear Connection period. For students who have a delayed arrival or early release during the Bear Connection period, they will be able to either come to school at the end of the Bear Con-nection time frame or leave at the beginning of the period. School staff are also working on a way to allow students who have a forum during Bear Con-nection to be included in the program.
Changes to Bear Connection were made for several reasons, with two being primarily re-sponsible.
“We were having a lot of issues with space for ev-eryone, lots of students had to be on the [Golden Bear Bou-levard] which was not conducive to having sensitive discus-sions if the group wanted to and so forth,” Julie Hiner, a teacher involved in planning Bear Connection, said. “A lot of staff and students on our survey at the end of the year were [also] saying that 20 minutes once a week wasn’t enough to really get to know people in your group, and when you’re in a class every day you tend to get to know people fairly well.”
These remedies were reflected in the new look of Bear Connection, with class-centric Bear Connections al-lowing for all students to be in a classroom, while emphasiz-ing connections with classmates who students already spend a large portion of their time with. In order to get the most out of the time, Hiner recommended that students commu-nicate with staff.
“I would really recommend that students reach out to their teachers and have a conversation about what they like to do,” she said.
Although the current iteration of Bear Connection is planned to continue for the rest of the year, if issues arise future adjustments may be made. Although the times, loca-tion and look of Bear Connection may change, Hiner said that the overarching goal remains the same.
“It’s all really about making more connections — deeper connections among students themselves and among teachers and students as well,” Hiner said. “We really are trying to find a way to help everyone feel connected in the school.”