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Out of Joint

Some energetic 8th graders at the 719-student Slauson Middle School in Ann Arbor, Mich., have a 10,000-year-old bone to pick with their state legislature.

The students are petitioning Sen. Thaddeus McCotter to push for passage of Senate Bill 397, which would make the mastodon the official state fossil of Michigan.

The idea was first proposed last year by a Washtenaw Community College geology professor, David Thomas, who believes the mastodon would be the perfect larger-than-life symbol for the Great Lakes State. The mastodon is an extinct relative of the modern-day elephant, and southern Michigan boasts more than 250 mastodon fossils.

After hearing of Mr. Thomas' efforts, science teacher Jeffrey Bradley offered a special interdisciplinary class to some of his 8th grade students. The class recently ran a campaign to raise awareness and support for the bill, and it collected $1,000 for the University of Michigan's Exhibit Museum of Natural History.

Currently, the class is engaged in a petition drive to boost the chances the mastodon will be recognized as the state fossil. The Michigan legislature has named several state symbols, including the whitetail deer as the state game animal.

But an aide to Sen. McCotter expressed doubt that the measure would be passed and signed by the governor without significant support. The Senate's government-operations committee, which Mr. McCotter chairs, could review the bill as early as next month.

A spokesman for Gov. John Engler—who, like Mr. McCotter, is a Republican—said the governor wouldn't take a position until the bill had passed the legislature.

Mr. Bradley's 8th graders remain undeterred. They plan to visit Lansing later this month to try to persuade senators.

According to a local newspaper, the students so far have collected nearly 4,000 signatures advocating the naming of the mastodon as the state fossil.

—Marianne Hurst

Vol. 21, Issue 16, Page 3

Published in Print: January 9, 2002, as Take Note

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