Students in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades at Oakwood Elementary School in Peoria, Ariz., are getting ready to welcome a very large friend into their neighborhood.
J.R. Little Spring, a bronze rabbit standing nearly 6 feet tall, will be making his home in Sweetwater Park near the 800-student school.
The city of Peoria commissioned the sculpture earlier in the year as a community-improvement project, but artist Michele VanderHeuvel of Albuquerque, N.M., felt that her work would not be complete without the help of Oakwood students.
So city officials asked each of the students in the three grades to write an 80-word essay describing the rabbit's journey from New Mexico to Arizona.
"The kids were incredibly excited about it," said Jim Cummings, the Peoria school district's director of communications. "Educationally, it touches so many levels. They had to do research on the animal itself, learn the geography of the area, and develop imaginative, well-thought-out stories."
The rabbit's name even touches on Arizona's historical roots. The initials J.R. stand simply for jackrabbit. But according to Paul Bower, Oakwood's principal, Little Spring is a possible translation of the word "Arizona" in Ha-ha-kam, the language of a local Native American tribe.
The winning essay, by 5th grader Samantha Eastburn, was announced last week from nearly 100 submissions. Her name and story will be carved into a brass plaque adorning the base of the sculpture. The city will also sponsor a pizza party for Samantha's class.
The sculpture, which cost an estimated $25,000, is scheduled to be unveiled at a ceremony Nov. 3.
Vol. 21, Issue 3, Page 3