The American Mastodon Supporters Have Spoken!

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New Hampshire has never had an official state fossil, but that may change thanks to the fourth graders from our Bradford Elementary School.  On Tuesday, February 17th, four student representatives and three college professors spoke in support of HB 113 – the legislative service request that asks that the American Mastodon be designated as our state’s official state fossil.  Thanks to the support of State Representatives David Borden, Tom Sherman and State Senator Nancy Stiles, this request was brought before a committee and will now be voted on in the coming weeks – March 3rd to be exact.

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Front Row: Professor Gary Johnson, Thom Smith, Maya Corbyn, Davis West, Lily Cicoria, Sabian Griffin.  Back Row: Professor Wally Bothner, Professor Will Clyde, Principal Spadaro. 

The hearing was scheduled for 2 pm but did not occur until after 4 pm.  This did not discourage the student representatives at all as they were able to talk to legislators in the hallways of the legislative office building about their efforts while they waited, passing out their mastodon “campaign” buttons as well.  The students, Principal Spadaro and I also had the privilege of getting to know our expert supporters before the hearing: UNH Professors Will Clyde and Wally Bothner, as well as Dartmouth Professor Gary Johnson. Professor Johnson also brought along a mastodon tooth for the students and the legislators to see and hold – a great experience.

When the hearing occurred the professors spoke first and did a wonderful job of bringing different yet very convincing reasons as to why the American mastodon should be our state’s official fossil.  Professor Bothner remarked on how advantageous it would be for the educational community to have an official state fossil, which would increase interest in the areas of geology, archaeology and paleontology.  Professor Will Clyde remarked how important it would be for a state of few fossils to have an official state fossil.  He also commented on how the recent mastodon fossil found off the coast of Rye, NH is a remarkable specimen, currently being researched in Europe at this time.  Lastly, Professor Johnson pointed out how much more sense it makes for a mastodon to be our official state fossil rather than a mammoth, as mastodons were much more prevalent east of the Mississippi than mammoths.

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Student Representative Sabian Griffin reading his prepared speech

The students did a wonderful job reading their prepared speeches, handing out flyers and “campaign buttons”, and answering tough questions.  The legislators were impressed, the professors were impressed, and Principal Spadaro and I were very proud of our students.

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Student Representatives meeting with State Legislators after the hearing, including Rep. Borden

The House Executive Session on March 3rd should decide whether this legislative service request moves closer to becoming law, or will not be considered.  No matter the outcome, the students of Bradford Elementary School have shown tremendous grit and enthusiasm in making sure their voices are heard.  From my perspective as their teacher and as a participant in this process, I strongly believe the American mastodon has a very good chance of being named our state’s official fossil.  The professors and students have put forth an extremely convincing case in favor of the mastodon.  Time will tell…

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The Fourth Grade Class with Representative Borden

The American Mastodon is Headed to Concord!

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The moment is finally here!  Although we may have to wait a few more days because the biggest snowstorm of the 2015 is upon us…the bill requesting the American Mastodon to be the official state fossil is being brought before a committee!  The committee hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, the 27th, but due to the likeliness of inclement weather this meeting will be rescheduled.

This quest by our school’s third grade students in October of 2013 is finally going to be heard by New Hampshire legislation and they are excited the moment has finally come!

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Our Class with Representative David Borden

The media momentum for these ambitious students has built up over the last month or so, having recently appeared in the Concord Monitor, and also having been heard over the airwaves on NHPR (links below).  Jeanne Timmons, a NH blogger and freelance writer, is also very excited to make our request known.  She recently had our students answer some questions for her blog, and interviewed me as well.  Her blog, mostlymammoths.wordpress.com, will be featuring an article on our students’ endeavor soon.  She also gave our students a gift of two books, including one by author Dick Mol, a paleontologist who is greatly interested in mammoths and mastodons.  He even wrote a letter to our class encouraging them in their endeavor and encouraging them to pursue paleontology!

One more special bit of information – the paleontologists that our class sought advice from when they wanted to know what fossils to consider have been helping us every bit of the way.  Professor Will Clyde from UNH and Professor Gary Johnson from Dartmouth have been very encouraging, and at least one of them will be attending the committee hearing to speak in favor of our students’ bill!

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Professors Will Clyde (left) and Gary Johnson (right)

I am going to end this blog post with a comment made by UNH Professor Wally Bothner, and also with links to the Concord Monitor and NHPR.  Thank you so much for your support, and contact your local state representative to let them know that you want the American Mastodon to be New Hampshire’s Official State Fossil!

“I think what Thom’s students are doing is absolutely first rate.  Their choice is magnificent, easily identifiable and “young enough” geologically (and archeologically) to relate to. Their grass root effort is also bringing our science to the forefront at a time when general understanding of the role geology plays in our daily lives is most needed as well as a means to emphasize the role we as a society are impacting it.  Good for them!”

NHPR on Our Students’ Quest

The Concord Monitor’s Article

NH State Fossil Quest UPDATE

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I just wanted to share with you that 6 fourth grade student ambassadors as well as Mrs. Woo-Sam and I went to visit the state house in Concord on Wednesday.  We met with State Representative David Borden and a legislative drafter and reviewed the process of filing a bill.  It looks very promising that the bill will come into existence VERY soon and there is definitely a chance that this bill might become a law.  Also, two paleontology professors from UNH and Dartmouth have agreed to continue to help us with this process!

Last year the third grade students were discouraged that our state did not have an official state fossil, so they have been working hard trying to change some New Hampshire history!  I am very proud of their efforts and determination, and look forward to working with them this year to see if they can help make a law.

Please help me encourage all of our fourth grade students to keep up their persistence in having a voice.  It is GREAT to see what can happen when you empower students.  I will certainly keep you updated with their progress

Sincerely,

Mr. Smith

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The Quest for a New Hampshire State Fossil

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Last Monday Representative Borden came to our third grade classroom from New Castle and it was a fantastic visit!  Students prepared speeches for Mr. Borden that outlined the reasons they wanted to see the mastodon become the state fossil.  Students were also able to ask prepared questions for Mr. Borden.  Also during his visit Mr. Borden discussed the legislative process of a bill and discussed with the students their responsibilities in the upcoming year.  I think that is when the kids knew what we were doing was real – and they are so excited!

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Another takeaway from Mr. Borden’s visit is how great Mr. Borden interacted with our students, and how passionate he is about his desire for more sustainable energy, for helping educators, as well as his goal in helping out our third grade class and our endeavor.  Representative Tom Sherman as well as Senator Martha Fuller Clark have also voiced their support for our efforts.

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When Representative Borden visited us he also learned of our field trip to Odiorne Point and asked if he could have lunch with our class.  I certainly could not say no!  On our field trip to Rye on the 16th we met up with Mr. Borden and his wife Nancy for lunch, as well as a reporter for the Portsmouth Herald.  I was able to round up several students who answered the reporter’s questions with confidence and impressive knowledge about their quest.  It was an excellent lunchtime on a gorgeous day by the ocean.  You can view the article here:

 http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20140617-NEWS-406170373

Please continue to support your children in their state fossil request.  Representative Borden stressed that this process will take about a year, and that he would need the cooperation of the students and teachers to hopefully make this bill a law.  We will need your encouragement and support, too, as parents.  I will still head up our mastodon quest even as your students move up to the fourth grade.  I anticipate the fourth grade teachers helping us out next year as we take the next steps into potentially making New Hampshire state history!

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Our Quest for an Official State Fossil!

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Our class learned about fossils in the Fall.  Most of the students were discouraged that our state did not have an official state fossil.  We did research as to why we did not have a state fossil, what states do have official state fossils, and what fossil could be our state fossil.  We were given advice from Professor Will Clyde from UNH and Professor Gary Johnson from Dartmouth.  After careful consideration and a class vote, we had an almost unanimous vote for the mastodon to become our state fossil.

Did we stop there?  NO!  I typed up a letter that listed the reasons our class felt that there should be a state fossil and emailed it to several local state representatives.  We received one response from Senator Bob Odell informing us that legislation usually takes place in the late summer / early fall, and that we should consider contacting him at that time.

After a few months passed the students and I were getting restless, so I decided to email our letter to some of our state’s seacoast representatives as the most recent mastodon fossil was discovered off the coast of Rye, NH.  I immediately received two responses from two of our state’s representatives: David Borden and Tom Sherman.  They both informed me that they would be willing to cosponsor a bill for an official state fossil!  They may be able to draft a bill this fall, and if they are reelected the bill will move forward.  If not, someone else would have to “carry the water”.  I am also attempting to set up a visit from State Representative David Borden before the school year ends.

We will continue to advocate for an official state fossil as a class, even as our class moves on to the fourth grade.  Let’s hope for the best, and WAY TO GO 3rd Grade Lightning for being a voice in our great state of New Hampshire!

P.S.  We also emailed other Senators from our state and this is the response we received from Senator Shaheen:

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