Governor Signs Bill Designating NH State Spider
Never underestimate the power of a third-grader committed to a cause.
By Juliana Rowland and Kat McGhee
HOLLIS – Today was a big day for third graders at Hollis Primary School. Governor Chris Sununu paid a visit to do a bill signing, designating the Daring Jumping Spider NH’s official State Spider. The bill was championed by four third-grade students who secured unanimous votes from the House Environment & Agriculture Committee, the Senate Executive & Administrative Departments Committee, and in the full NH House and Senate.
The story of how these students came to navigate a successful legislative effort starts with a NH Fish and Game course attended by environmental science teacher, Tara Happy. In the course, wildlife educator Lindsay Webb helped Happy develop a curiosity about the role of spiders in our ecosystem. Mrs. Happy decided to bring her newfound interest in an oft-overlooked subject back to her students at HPS. When the class discovered there was no NH state spider, they decided to remedy the situation.
The entire primary school was engaged in debating the merits of the four primary candidates. Ballots were cast and according to Happy, the kindergartners swayed the vote. The Daring Jumping spider was the winner. Hollis State Rep Kat McGhee sponsored the bill and worked with Mrs. Happy and her four committed students to take the bill from candidate to state symbol.
This morning, “Team Spider” greeted Governor Sununu, along with local elected state Representatives McGhee, Homola, Ammon and Pearl, Senator Avard, SAU 41 Superintendent Andy Corey, SAU 41 Assistant Superintendent Bob Thompson, Lindsay Webb of NH Fish & Game, and longtime Beaver Brook Education Director, Celeste Barr, who witnessed the bill signing.
The four third-grade students and Mrs. Happy led the group to the outdoor classroom in the woods behind the school, set up for the signing. Posters and photos of the spider adorned a tree and table.
HPS Principal Paula Izbicki said in her introduction, “Having our kids pass a bill into law is just absolutely amazing”. Addressing Team Spider live and in the classrooms via livestream, she said, “I am always impressed with your knowledge, passion, determination, expertise and delivery of information. It just blew the adults away, and I’m very proud of you.”
Governor Sununu acknowledged that having a bill passed can take years. “This is always a really challenging process and the fact you guys got it on the first shot, a team effort, you gave it 150%, I don’t know how you did it.” He acknowledged Rep McGhee and House E&A Chair Howard Pearl for their roles in helping the bill succeed.
Principal Izbicki presented Happy with a commemorative Crista McAuliffe coin from the PTA, thanking her for the opportunities for learning she shares with the kids. Happy continued with thanks to the kids and to everyone, “including all the grown-ups,” to whom the kids yelled out their thanks.
But the stars of the event were definitely the students of Team Spider.
Eva Constantian presented a diagram detailing the physical attributes of the Daring Jumping spider, pointing out and naming spider anatomy to the governor and answering his questions. She concluded with, “It’s been six months of hard work to make this the NH State Spider.”
Nora Laine shared a list of “fun facts” about the spider, including that it can jump up to 20 times its body size. She shared two pictures of a Daring Jumping spider she found on her deck at home, which made everyone in the woods a little more aware of their surroundings.
Chloe Constantian offered some examples of what jumping spiders can do: they shoot a thread and use it to move through the air. And to attract a female, the male will get on its stomach and wave its legs in the air, a fun fact that caused a few laughs from the crowd.
The final team spider member, Geoffrey Seiden, was presented as the “closer” for the presentation and he shared how the “hard-working, hunting spider could work for us”. “Make cups, masks, refrigerator magnets, and maybe on our NH license plate,” he said as he pulled out an excellent computer-generated prototype of what that could look like.
“We just passed a law a couple years ago that allows decals, so you never know,” added the Governor. “I like the swag – mugs, magnets – they could sell at the visitor centers.”
Geoffrey continued with his idea, “The money that we make from the spider license plate could go to benefit New Hampshire schools, maybe they could have an environmental science class, but we get to keep Mrs. Happy.” This idea was met with laughter and applause.
Geoffrey then presented the governor with a gift from the school: a newly created Daring Jumping Spider key chain and a Team Spider t-shirt.
After a few photo ops, Sununu signed the bill and presented each of the four students and Happy with a pen used for the signing. “We’ll pass this into law, and other schools will start learning about it.”
A copy of the bill will be sent to the school for display.
(Updated 6/12/21 to correct Bob Thompson as SAU 41 Assistant Superintendent and added students’ last names)
— — Hollis Brookline News Online
By Juliana Rowland and Kat McGhee
June 11, 2021