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.
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.
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.
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…
The Fourth Grade Class with Representative Borden