Owatonna Sixth Graders Write a Passing Bill
Young minds are often cooking up the most brilliant ideas, even when stereotype says kids aren’t old enough to make a difference. Two years ago, sixth graders from Owatonna proved that they could do something extraordinary, regardless of their age. Under the direction of teacher Jennifer Hanson, they wrote a legislative bill that was just passed last spring.
In March of 2015, Hanson was teaching a State Capitol class that was written by the University of Minnesota. It is an online curriculum available to teachers for free, and is titled “Who Built our State Capitol?” As her sixth graders were looking through an old newspaper article that mentioned what was included in the cornerstone of the state capitol, they discovered something. Six men had died during the construction of the building.
“You know how sixth graders are; they want things to be just; they want to make things right,” commented Hanson. The kids were upset that the workers weren’t recognized, so she stepped in. “Well, what are you going to do about it?” Jokingly, someone answered, “Let’s call the governor!” Although they didn’t end up calling the governor, they were bound and determined to get to the bottom of this.
The class worked together on a letter that was eventually sent to Representatives John Petersburg and Vicki Jenson, as well as Governor Mark Dayton. To their excitement, several of the students received letters back. Petersburg and Jensen both called Hanson and agreed to write a bill on their behalf. They met with the kids and composed a bill that would be passed on to the next level.
April of 2016 rolled around, and Petersburg again contacted Hanson, asking to hear the bill being testified. A group of six students were chosen to go up to the Capitol and testify. It passed unanimously. After this, the Senate Committee wanted to hear it again, so another group of six testified in front of them. It passed again unanimously. Lastly, the bill needed to be testified for the House Committee. By this round, they had enough information, and were able to pass it on to the next committee. In June of 2016, Dayton signed it into law. A memorial plaquard was to be made, honoring those who constructed the building.