Watch out, Punxsutawney Phil — the fourth-graders at Broken Arrow School are looking to put you out of a job by employing Alvin the Chipmunk.
That’s right, every Feb. 2, students in Ginny Turvey’s class venture out to the playground, set down the stuffed animal wearing his red, monogrammed sweater and then take a step back to see whether Alvin is casting a shadow.
On Thursday morning, Turvey and fellow teacher Lisa Harrod stood before their 57 students and quizzed them on Groundhog Day. An hour and a half earlier, the more famous — and breathing — weather-predicting rodent had forecast six more weeks of winter.
“But that was in Pennsylvania. We are in Lawrence, Kansas. And we have Alvin the Chipmunk,” Turvey told her students.
Before the big reveal, Turvey reviewed the ground rules of Groundhog Day.
“What does it mean if he sees his shadow?” she asked the class.
“Six more weeks of winter!” one boy cried out.
“What if he does not see his shadow?” she quizzed.
“Spring is right around the corner,” one fourth-grader replied.
When one student asked how long Alvin had been predicting Lawrence’s weather, Turvey said it started before they were born.
Alvin’s longevity doesn’t match the 126-year tradition in Punxsutawney, but he has been around for at least 25 years. He came to Broken Arrow to liven up the classroom.
“As a teacher, you think of these things that might be kind of fun and interesting for the kids,” Turvey said.
So one year Turvey decided to give the midwinter celebration a local twist.
“I went into my son’s room and started to scavenge around to see if there was anything remotely related to a groundhog, and then I kidnapped Alvin,” she said.
To give you a sense of how long ago that was, we might add that Turvey’s son is now a 34-year-old lawyer living in Kansas City.
Turvey admits her approach isn’t exactly scientific.
“It is not high-tech. It’s just fun. It takes about two minutes,” she said.
Not all of her students believe in the weather forecasting powers of a toy chipmunk.
“Alvin can’t see his shadow because he is a stuffed animal,” one student proclaimed on Thursday.
“We’ll see,” Turvey replied.
Shortly afterward, students made a mad dash to one corner of the playground where they scrunched together as Turvey placed Alvin on the ground.
“There is most definitely a shadow there,” Turvey proclaimed.
Reactions were mixed to the forecast of six more weeks of winter.
“I’m actually glad. We might get snow,” fourth-grader Adelle Remken said.
Others weren’t so enthusiastic.
“I think it’s a little horrible. I’ve been waiting for spring for a long time now,” Nyasha McVay-Jordan said.
As for Turvey, she thinks most folks won’t mind Alvin’s prediction.
“I have a lot of people tell me if we have six more weeks of winter like we have had so far, they are just fine with it,” she said.