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Kids Make a Law!

A group of fourth-graders at Wedgwood Elementary School in Seattle, Washington recently got their first taste of politics. These students helped make a law that turned the Olympic marmot into an official symbol of their state.

Each of America's 50 states has symbols like birds, flowers, or slogans (short sayings) that are special to that state. A symbol may also be an endemic animal—a type of animal that lives in only one area. The Olympic marmot is named after its homeland, Washington's Olympic National Park. This park is the only place in the world where these rare marmots can be found.

As a class project, students had to argue to lawmakers why the marmots should become a state symbol. They first e-mailed their opinions to lawmakers. Later, they testified, or spoke, before lawmakers in the state capital of Olympia. Finally, they appeared with Washington Governor Christine Gregoire when she signed the bill that turned their furry friends into an official symbol.

Law of the Land

In each state, a law must be passed to approve the naming of an official symbol. Wedgwood students would not have been able to name the marmot their state's official endemic animal without help from the Constitution, which provided a model for lawmaking by state governments. On Thursday, Americans celebrate Constitution Day, observing the signing of this important document on September 17, 1787.

The Constitution set up the way the U.S. government works. Congress is the legislative, or lawmaking part of the government. It has two parts: the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Constitution states how laws are to be passed in Congress. A bill, or plan for a law, must first pass both the Senate and the House with a majority vote. If this happens, the President usually signs the bill, making it a law for the nation.

State laws come about in a similar way. As in Congress, the state of Washington has two groups of elected lawmakers: the Senate and the Assembly. The Governor, who is the state's elected leader, signs a bill into law after both the Senate and the Assembly vote to pass the bill.

With help from teachers, Wedgwood students asked State Senator Ken Jacobsen to write a bill to make the Olympic marmot their new state symbol. "I commend these fourth-graders for taking the time to learn about this state mammal and learn about the process of proposing a bill," Jacobsen said.

State Law, State Pride

Many people in the state were excited when Governor Gregoire signed the bill into law-especially the students who helped make it happen. "The whole school was abuzz," said Kelly Clark, a teacher at Wedgwood Elementary School.

"It's not every day kids make a bill and get this experience," student Caroline Malone told The Seattle Times.

To celebrate, Washington's Secretary of State Sam Reed threw a party for all the students involved. All the kids wore marmot masks, and some even wore marmot costumes! But they were joyful over more than just the marmot. They were celebrating the freedom kids have in our country to participate in government, thanks to the Constitution.

WHAT'S THE WORD?

blog it

Use words from today's story to complete this crossword puzzle about Washington's furry state symbol.

Download it here!

CELEBRATE CONSTITUTION DAY!

Do you know your rights? Learn about them here! Celebrate Constitution Day with games, articles, and activities. Read interviews with Supreme Court Justices, travel through time with Ben Franklin, and check out the full text of the Bill of Rights.

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