As a journalist and member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Elaine Warner travels the world writing about interesting destinations. And often, Warner is accompanied by Fuzzy, a teddy bear who loves to explore and blog about the places he visits on Teddy's Travels.
"Because Teddy has paws instead of fingers, I have to do his typing for him," Warner told TODAY Parents. "He blogs about where he has been and all of his adventures."
Fuzzy has visited places like Spain, Norway and Wales. Warner says the traveling teddy program began within the SATW 15 years ago, and at its peak had more than three dozen bears, donated by Build-A-Bear Workshop, traveling with writers.
In the early days of the program, each bear was assigned to a classroom and would correspond with their students via written letters. Kids would track their classroom bear's travels as their teachers incorporated the bear into lesson plans.
But today, Fuzzy is the lone bear traveling for the SATW, mainly, Warner believes, because of the loads of equipment travel writers carry, combined with limited luggage space.
"Juggling the bears began to get difficult," said Warner. "The program just kind of dwindled."
While he visits a classroom in Warner's home state of Oklahoma with her often, both Warner and the SATW hope classrooms around the country will adopt Fuzzy's blog into their routines.
"Because we love to travel, we're very concerned about the fact that geography does not seem to place as an important component in education these days," said Warner. "We live in a world with a lot of other people who live in a lot of other places, and many of the students will never travel very far from their homes. We think it's important to reach out and give them a picture of what other places are like and what other people think."
In the past, Warner has worked with teachers whose students have read Fuzzy's blog posts.
"It's very handy if you have five minutes between subjects or when it's almost time for lunch or recess and you don't want to start something new," said Warner. "Teachers can take it as far as they want, or just use it for that. I once had a teacher who kept track of where the bear was going on a map in her classroom, and if the children were taking a trip themselves, she asked them to journal their stories. It's one of those things where you can do with it what you want."
Warner posts at least once a month about Fuzzy's travels, which have included meeting baseball player Albert Pujols in St. Louis, Missouri and getting photos taken with an entire fire brigade in England. Fuzzy has even rode aboard the Millennium Falcon at Star Wars Galaxy's Edge in Walt Disney World, although he had to remain in Warner's purse because he was too short for his own seat.
"I want to make (the blog) as useful for teachers and students as it can be. We're trying to move it to the 21st century," said Warner. "I'm hoping for a landslide of kids who would like to correspond with the bear."
Still, not all of Warner's work-related travels are bear-appropriate.
"I'm going to Lodi for a wine story and I don't think I'll take Fuzzy, or if I do, he'll have to spend most of his time in the hotel room," said Warner. "I don't take him to wineries or breweries because he's underage."
Teachers who are interested in following along with Fuzzy's travels can email Elaine Warner at email@example.com.