The bill to make the American burying beetle the official state insect heads to the governor’s desk. This was the result of steady lobbying by third graders in Newport.
Third graders at St. Michael’s Country Day School hope designating the American burying beetle as the state’s official insect will raise awareness about the beetle’s endangered status, according to State Rep. Lauren Carson, one of the bill’s sponsors.
Carson said the students recognize the beetle’s important role in the environment: They break down dead animals into soil.
“Here we had all these 9 year olds who are doing this research,” said Carson. “They were very excited. They wrote letters. They testified. They were on television. They went the full nine yards to really lobby the legislature to get this passed.”
Carson said there’s a chance this beetle might become extinct during the lifetime of these students. She called their effort an important lesson in civics.
The beetle was once found in 35 states. Now it’s found in only four states. In Rhode Island, the beetle is mostly found on Block Island. The Roger Williams Park Zoo is the headquarters for the American Burying Beetle Species Survival Plan.
Linda Spinney, one of the St. Michael’s Country Day School teachers who led the third grade class’s hands-on learning project, said she’s getting emails from her students’ families describing how thrilled they are that lawmakers passed the bill.
“So they really just learned so much about the whole process of how a bill becomes a law,” said Spinney. “I just—it’s hard for me to even put into words—it’s pretty incredible what our students have accomplished.”
Spinney said her students were inspired by other young peers who successfully lobbied for their official state insects in Wisconsin and Colorado.
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