CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire now has an official state spider, thanks to third-graders who went from being afraid of arachnids to promoting them as symbols of the state's strengths.
Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill Friday designating the daring jumping spider as the official state spider of New Hampshire. He was joined by students at Hollis Primary School, who drafted the legislation after a weeklong unit designed to reduce fear of spiders.
“I started out with a class yelling ‘Ewwww’ and by the end of the week ... they were literally waiting in line to hold a little black spider with their bare hands,” teacher Tara Happy told a House committee in January.
Students researched various spiders before settling on the daring jumping spider — formal name Phidippus audax. They emphasized the fuzzy, quarter-sized spider's winter hardiness, described it as “cute and colorful like New Hampshire's trees in autumn” and evoked the state's “Live Free or Die” motto in recounting how the spiders create “parachutes” to fly to new homes.
New Hampshire adopted the white potato as the state’s official vegetable in 2013 at the request of Derry Village Elementary School students. Over the years, similar efforts have led to the adoption of other symbols, including a state poultry (the New Hampshire Red) and state fruit (pumpkin).
In 2015, lawmakers made national news by refusing to pass a bill promoted by Hampton Falls fourth-graders designating the red-tailed hawk as the state’s official raptor. Opponents called the bill unnecessary and the bird too violent, and one suggested it would make a good mascot for Planned Parenthood because it tears its prey apart, “limb from limb.” Students tried again in 2019, and the bill became law.
The legislative process was not a tangled web for the Hollis students, however. The spider bill cleared the House on a voice vote and passed the Senate with unanimous support.
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