The coronavirus may have killed large-scale community Easter egg hunts this year, but Silicon Valley residents are preoccupying themselves with plenty of worthy alternatives still possible in a socially distanced world.
Scavenger hunts, in particular, have emerged as the perfect complement to the sudden flood of families embarking on daily afternoon strolls, and perhaps none are as popular right now as the teddy bear variety.
Inspired by the beloved 1989 children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by English author-illustrator team Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, people across the world, from Auckland to Calgary, are placing stuffed toy bears in their home’s front windows for passersby to spot. Apartment dwellers and those with windows obscured from the street set bears in trees or relegate them to automobiles parked in driveways. Locally, the line-up ranges from a cuddly white teddy peering out from behind shutters on Alicia Way in Los Altos to a 55-year-old keepsake in the window of a St. Giles Lane home in Mountain View.
A Nextdoor.com post from Mountain View resident Christine Moore helped liberate that city’s contingent of bears from the confines of attics, closets and playrooms. She had heard about the idea from a friend who participated with her Willow Glen neighborhood. Now Moore and her daughter Annabel, 11, challenge themselves daily to see how many bears they can find within Old Mountain View.
“We’ve been in the neighborhood walking and we’ve seen particularly really young children say, ‘Oh, we’re going bear hunting,’” Moore said. “It’s been a nice thing for families to get out.”
The Moore family’s own representative, a rotund, flat-faced guy Annabel named “Popa Chubby” in tribute to a blues singer she likes, possesses all the requisite features for his new occupation.
“He’s squishy, so he’s able to stay in his position really easily,” Moore said. “He kind of sits up on the window.”
Making quarantine ‘bearable’
After a group of Cupertino Union School District principals adopted the activity for their own students, Montclaire Elementary teachers who live near the Los Altos school observed children pointing out their finds as they carefully scanned each facade. Principal Alison Luvara’s weekly email message to students and parents now includes a theme for similar challenges. Hearts displayed to illustrate “kindness” followed two weeks of bears.
“We just thought of things that the kids likely can either create on their own or find around their house, something that’s not going to be an added burden to parents but that students can really take ownership of and do and see,” Luvara said. “And so far, the response has just been so great. The kids are super excited, it sounds like, across the district.”
The Mountain View Recreation Division independently launched a variation of the bear hunt in late March by encouraging themed displays every few days: hearts (March 26), jokes (March 28), flowers (March 31), cartoons (April 3), rainbows (April 5) and sun (April 8). Staff determined the schedule when it seemed the shelter-in-place orders would expire in early April. Now that they’re extended through the month, additional themes are forthcoming.
“It’s just a way for people, as they’re walking around their neighborhood, to know that there’s people inside their houses – they’re there,” said Maureen Grzan-Pieracci, the city’s recreation supervisor. “Even though you may not be able to see them, you can kind of engage with them while social distancing.”
Some residents have come up with quite creative interpretations of the themes, she added. Last week, one family assembled colorful pool noodles into a rainbow shape on their front lawn.
Los Altos resident Camilla McCrea’s Distel Drive neighborhood has yet to embrace scavenger hunting – or even much inspirational sidewalk chalk art – but she’s hopeful; she commandeered her son’s 20-year-old teddy, dressed it in a college T-shirt and propped it up in a place of prominence.
“I think we’re all trying to find some normalcy, and as we are trying to practice good behavior, we need role models for that good behavior,” McCrea said. “And if you’re out doing social distancing and getting into the outdoors, isn’t it fun to have something new as a twist to lighten the mood?”