WOODLAND, Maine — The students of Woodland Consolidated School spent some time outside on Groundhog Day, chucking wood in celebration of the elementary school’s sixth annual Woodchuck Day.
Inspiration for the event came when Woodland Principal Susie Schloeman saw a GEICO commercial in which an outdoorsman scolded some woodchucks for chucking wood. From there, it became a Woodland School tradition that honors the school’s mascot and typically precedes the winter carnival.
According to Schloeman, younger students focus on precision and chuck a small log at a target, and the older students show off their strength in a test to see who can throw the piece of wood the farthest.
When the chucking came to a close, organizers treated the students to pieces of a large cake or gluten-free cupcakes that local resident and former school cook Norma Akerson baked.
“It’s going quite well so far, the weather is in our favor,” Schloeman, who was clad in a full woodchuck outfit, said as she led students out to the school parking lot for the day’s festivities. “The kids are excited about it.”
The winners receive certificates and get their names posted on a list of champions in the school, which tends to spark a bit of competition among the older students, who throw for distance, the principal said.
“Some kids have won twice in a row, and they can get competitive,” Schloeman said. “They have to throw hard and maintain their title, or else someone will step in and beat their record.”
Carrie St. Peter, the Woodland school’s speech pathologist and special education instructor, said everyone in the school participates in the event, which typically falls on Groundhog Day.
“The kids are very excited about going outside and chucking wood,” St. Peter said, “and then they all get to have cake at lunch time.”