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Warner students help craft legislation for N.H. state berry

  • Francie Reid and classmate Owen Blood stand next to Gov. Chris Sununu as he gets ready to sign House Bill 262, making the blackberry the New Hampshire’s official state berry, as state Rep. Clyde Carson of Warner looks on. Francie and classmate Owen took it upon themselves to get New Hampshire to adopt a new state berry – the blackberry – due to its prevalence in the state. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Francie Reid and classmate Owen Blood each get an organic blackberry from Gov. Chris Sununu after he signed House Bill 262, making the blackberry the official state berry, as state Rep. Clyde Carson of Warner looks on. “There were berries around the seal, so we thought, ‘Shouldn’t there be a state berry?’ ” said fourth-grader Francie, a student at Simonds School. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Thursday, June 15, 2017

When fourth-grade students from Warner took their annual class trip to the State House, they had already learned about the state’s many official symbols – like the lilac as the state flower, and the white birch as the state tree.

But as they examined the state seal, they said one symbol was missing.

“There were berries around the seal, so we thought, ‘Shouldn’t there be a state berry?’ ” said Francie Reid, a student at Simonds School.

Francie and classmate Owen Blood took it upon themselves to get New Hampshire to adopt a new state berry – the blackberry, due to its prevalence in the state.

“It grows wild in every county in New Hampshire,” Francie said.

On Thursday, Gov. Chris Sununu, accompanied by Francie and Owen, signed House Bill 262, making the blackberry the official state berry of the biennium.

“The general court of the state of New Hampshire finds that the common blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) is a vital part of the New Hampshire ecosystem and as such declares the common blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) to be the berry of the biennium,” reads the new law, which took effect with the stroke of Sununu’s pen.

Simonds School Principal Laura Stoneking said the process was driven entirely by the students.

“They came to me and asked if they could have permission to create a petition to make the blackberry the state berry – they did all the work,” she said. “They researched it; they put petitions out in several locations throughout town.”

Once the students had enough signatures and wrote the bill, they were questioned by state representatives and senators, said Rob Joynt, the students’ teacher.

“It was just the two of them; none of us ever spoke at all,” he said, referring to Francie and Owen. “They presented and then answered questions.”

And as Owen tells it, lawmakers didn’t go easy on him and Francie, grilled them on their reasons for the choosing the blackberry.

“I can’t remember them all,” he said. “There were so many questions.”

The bill passed through the House and the Senate before arriving on Sununu’s desk.

The process was helped along by state Rep. Clyde Carson, a Warner Democrat and the prime sponsor of the bill.

“It was fun,” he said. “They were a great group of kids to work with.”

Joynt said his students’ efforts mirrored those of students in Maine and Massachusetts, who pushed their states to adopt a state berry.

“Both of those were originated by students who originated legislation,” he said. “They got inspiration from that.”

While Francie said one of the best parts of the process was getting to skip school with some frequency, Joynt said the whole process was important in teaching students about government and civics.

“The students had a lot of fun going on the internet and researching state symbols and finding out some of the crazy things other states have,” he said.

Joynt said the skills the students learned during the process were built into the school’s curriculum.

“What they’ve done is a whole combination of the standards we teach at schools,” he said. “There’s research, there’s writing, there’s speaking, there’s relating information.”

Joynt said the students use these skills to perfection, driving forward the state’s decision to adopt the new state berry.

“At the very beginning, once they had the idea, the entire impetus for it all came from them,” he said. “We just support them whenever they needed it, but they never stopped being interested for nine months.”