BREWER, Maine — The entire third grade of Brewer Community School is going on a field trip this week to Augusta to lobby for a bill the students requested to make the lobster the official “state crustacean.”
“We found out [Friday] that the public hearing for our lobster bill is [2:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 9], so the entire third grade is heading down,” third-grade teacher Cherrie MacInnes said Friday in an email. “They want some of the students and a teacher to speak. I think we will have a new law because of a group of children!”
Students from five third-grade classrooms in Brewer asked Gov. Paul LePage to put forward the bill, LD 1609, which was sponsored by state Reps. Peter Lyford, R-Eddington, Arthur “Archie” Verow, D-Brewer, Kim Rosen, R-Bucksport, and Tori Kornfield, D-Bangor.
“As a former legislator, I can’t imagine anyone arguing against this,” City Manager Steve Bost said last week of the proposed legislation.
Principal Bill Leithiser said the effort is a “true bipartisan effort” with two Democrats and two Republicans sponsoring the bill. Besides MacInnes, teachers Carie Cuskelly, Deanna Bryant, Patricia Scripture and Kaitlan Jewell will be leading the students.
The entire third grade, which consists of 100 8- and 9-year-olds, will lobby lawmakers just like other lobbyists in the State House, MacInnes said of the team effort.
“This is where they need to convince them this is important,” she said.
The third-graders came up with the idea while learning about state symbols, and practicing persuasive letter writing, which they addressed to area lawmakers to get the bill before legislators.
Students in MacInnes’ classroom annually use video teleconferencing to “visit” classrooms in all 50 states and have connected over the last few years with governors, first lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, former first lady Barbara Bush, Maine first lady Ann LePage and other dignitaries. This year’s class also wrote a book called “Classroom Pets” that in January won a national writing contest.
The third-graders learned that Moxie was designated Maine’s official soft drink on May 20, 2005, the whoopie pie made the list as the state’s official “treat” in 2011, at the same time blueberry pie became the state’s official “dessert,” which spurred them to think of the iconic lobster, which already appears on some of the state’s license plates for vehicles.
MacInnes said since the lobster industry brings in more more than $1 billion in revenue annually, the students’ bill is something that lawmakers should be able to agree on, no matter what party they belong to.
The Brewer students are scheduled to attend the bill’s public hearing before the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee in Room 214 of the Cross Building.
“I hope they learn kids can make a difference and words matter,” MacInnes said.