Plymouth Creek students get a ‘Ralph’ of their own
If you drive the streets of Wayzata and Plymouth, it’s pretty hard to miss Ralph.
The statue that has become the “face” of Wayzata-based Hammer Residences is everywhere – although he never looks quite the same from place to place.
Each business, organization or family that adopts a Ralph statue gets to decorate him in any way they choose.
The week of Jan. 7, students at Plymouth Creek Elementary School had a chance to create a miniature Ralph statues of their own, to represent their individuality and creativity and to celebrate the differences between each student. This is the third year that Plymouth Creek students have participated in the project. It is through the outreach efforts of Hammer, which since 1923 has been in business to provide quality services for differently abled children and adults.
Each class starts with teachers reading them the book “Brothers and Sisters,” which shows and celebrates the differences that exist from person to person. Next, each student creates his or her own vision of what they think Ralph should look like and then they create that vision.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Plymouth Creek art teacher Andy Juelich said. “It really helps the students show their own creativity … I haven’t seen two that are alike.”
As a first-year teacher at Plymouth Creek, this is Juelich’s first go-around with the project. But he can already see just how much it means to the students. His room has Ralph as a permanent fixture, with Juelich using it to hold hall passes.
“This is the first time they get to work on a piece of that quality,” he said of the miniature statues. “They’re so excited to see that statue and learn what it is because they’ve seen and it’s been a part of the classroom it all year long.”
While this is Juelich’s first experience with Ralph, he’s had help in the classroom throughout the week that’s very familiar.
Retired Wayzata Schools art teachers Kate Brayman – who Juelich did his student teaching with last year – and Sue Gregor – who is a Hammer volunteer – assisted him throughout the week, making sure all seven sections of first-graders got through the project.
“It’s pretty amazing to have two former teachers in the room,” Juelich said. “I always have a lot of parent volunteers and they’re great, but there’s just something about having other teachers around.”
The two former teachers were happy to be back with the students and helping in the classroom – at least for the short-term.
“We’re retired … the emphasis on tired,” Brayman, who taught elementary art for 18 years in the district, joked. “I feel like it’s old home week.”
Gregor, who taught all three levels during her 23 years in the district, said it’s good to have someone like Juelich and his “fresh approach” in the school.
All three saw that same fresh approach in the work of each student that created a Ralph, noting how the project and its unique nature wasn’t lost on the young students.
“It’s a really special project,” Juelich said. “They’re all starting with the same base and bringing it to life … it really shows off just how different each of us is.”