By Megan Kelley
Students at Waldon Middle School traveled to Lansing June 4 to testify in front of the House Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee.
Waldon Science teacher Jon Gray and Waldon History teacher Jillyan Fuller worked together with their students throughout the year to use their seperate curriculums on a combined project.
“A while back I had this crazy iea that our students could maybe propose a law and making some sort of state symbol seemed like a logical choice so we settled on trying to make the eastern wild turkey the Michigan state game bird,” Gray said. “So before the school year began I got with Jillyan, she was our new history teacher on the team and I asked her, ‘is this whole thing about making a law part of your curriculum?’ and she said ‘it’s totally my curriculum.”
In science class, students began with learning about conservation in the U.S. and how it’s funded and then started to learn about the North American wild turkey. Afterward, they spent time learning how to write argumentative essays. Gray used this as an opportunity to have his students write arguments (followed by counter claims) on why Michigan should adopt the eastern wild turkey as the state’s official game bird.
In History class, Fuller was teaching the students about the constitution and the process of how a bill becomes law.
“We were kind of able to turn this into a really inquary based, experimental learning experience,” said Fuller. “It was awesome. The kids looked at different stakeholders that might play a part in making this bill a law. We talked about how to lobby, how we were going to get the other representatives on board to vote for this. Some of their ideas were really funny, they wanted to invite all of them to the eighth grade celebration and talk to them about the eastern wild turkey at the celebration…they really got on board with this, we made a huge graphic in my classroom where we were able to see the process move, which was very slow at first, it was months from Mr. Gray’s idea to actually getting picked up and assigned a house bill number. It was probably four or five months befor e that happened.”
Not only did the students testify in front of the House committee but they also visited representatives giving them gifts of turkey callers and answering their questions in the hopes that they would support their bill.
Mr. Gray was informed that the bill is expected to pass through the Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Committee and on to the House Ways and Means Committee. If the bill passes through the House Ways and Means Committe then it will head to the House floor for a full vote, then to the Senate Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Committee and on to the Senate floor before landing on Governor Whitmer’s desk for her signature.
Superintendent Marion Ginopolis thanked both Gray and Fuller in their ability to integrate their curriculums.
“In my many many years in this business, I watched you — it was livestreamed, I was so proud…to see that, especially because you know one of my issues has to do with our relationship with our legislatures and trying to make a difference and it really just hit me that our kids have far more influence than we think and we need to really rely on them,” said Ginopolis.
The progress of House Bill 4589 can be followed online at www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(eie3jgjanyhg152hyj0wycji))/mileg.aspx?page=BillStatus&objectname=2019-HB-4589