WCPS students eagerly await Rocky's return Friday.
by JULIENE McCORMICK
WCPS 1st Grade Teacher
Rocky the Writing Raccoon returns to West Carroll Primary School this Friday, April 15. At 8:30, students will gather in the gym, anxiously awaiting his arrival.
Rocky will arrive by plane, of course, as he's been traveling great distances from the school, the past few months. He has been sight-seeing and word-searching around the world, gathering up words derived from the languages of the countries that he's visiting. He sends those words, via postcards, to the students, because increasing vocabulary skills is one of Rocky's goals for the children at West Carroll.
Rocky is a 6-foot 3-inch walking, running, writing, gray, furry raccoon. A "smartscot" that was created a few years ago, by Facemakers, Inc., in Savanna, an international costume design company. Rocky was generously gifted to the school, and with literacy coach Keta Foltz's enthusiasm, he has been motivating students at West Carroll Primary in their writing ever since.
No year has been more fun than this year, however. For example, Rocky recently sent a picture of himself standing before a landmark, in Hungary, where he went because we was "hungry". Before that he celebrated St. Patrick's Day in Ireland and next week, he'll end his travels in England, visiting the homeland of the author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
The students daily pass by a large display wall in the school, and observe the new "clues" about Rocky's next whereabouts. They are often heard dialoging their guesses about "Where in the world is Rocky now?"
But this Friday he returns and the students can't wait. The West Carroll Education Foundation (the organization that collects donations on behalf of the needs of the school children and who has gifted many educational materials for classroom use), has written to Rocky, urging him to return home. They're hoping he will assist with preparing the students' summer writing bags.
Another activity Rocky promoted at West Carroll during the year was "Wear-A-Word Day" on Oct. 31. For the first months of the year, students collected interesting words that they found at home.
After they wrote a definition and a sentence using the word, they sent it off to school. Then the words were placed on display in the cafeteria. Sometime before Halloween, the words were compiled and a list sent home to the parents. Students then chose a word to wear, and dressed up like a "word" instead of in a Halloween costume on Oct. 31!
Rocky has also become well-known throughout the state. He has made "spotlight" appearances at the Illinois Reading Conference the past three years, in Springfield. Foltz and her team of Amber Findlay, Christa Curley, and Janell Hartman have been presenters at the conference. They have noticed Rocky's popularity growing each year. This team of teachers has been invited by several different school districts to bring Rocky into their educational community, to share about his work of promoting and improving reading and writing literacy.
Authors of children's literature, who are featured guest speakers at the convention, have enjoyed meeting Rocky, too. Some of them are Craig Pierce, Gary Metivier, Mary Casanova and Tedd Arnold, to name a few. The website, gives more information about the different Rocky activities.
There will be a lot of excitement in the gym at 8:30 a.m. Friday, April 15, at West Carroll Primary School. First grade students will be receiving a special Rocky bag that day which will be packed with different writing supplies and a bare book, ready and waiting to be written in, thanks to the Education Foundation.
Parents of first graders are invited to a Writing Open House immediately after school on Friday to "Build-A-Bag" for writing. Those students will then return to school next fall as second graders, ready to share their summer writing.
When Rocky isn't traveling around, he lives in the wooded area, behind the school. But the students just never know when he'll show up an be either reading their writing in the hallway, or stopping into their classroom for a quick write.
It could be that Rocky will even return with a little souvenir for each student. Hmmm, that writing raccoon is just always full of surprises.
"Rocky the Writing Raccoon," a mascot created by Facemakers Incorporated, has been generating tons of enthusiasm, getting children excited about reading and even writing their own books. A recent article in the Savanna Times-Journal tells the story:
"Rocky the Writing Raccoon" created by Facemakers, Inc., for the West Carroll Primary School of Savanna, IL.
A portion of the Facemakers, Inc., production staff with company president and founder, Alan St. George, general manager, Nancy H. Willis, and "Rocky the Writing Raccoon" mascot created and donated by Facemakers to the West Carroll Primary School of Savanna, IL 61074.