Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wisconsin Cheese: State Snack?

The Journal Times first reported on Oct. 8, that while Wisconsin does not currently have a state snack, it soon could thanks to a group of students from Wauwatosa who took their lessons from state government class seriously and brought their idea to their legislator.

In a bipartisan effort, lawmakers, including Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Randall, have signed on to a bill introduced by Sen. Jim Sullivan, D-Wauwatosa, that would designate cheese as the state snack.

Reporter Paul Sloth quips: "Should Sullivan's bill make it to Gov. Jim Doyle's desk, the designation would grant to cheese a place in the annals of Wisconsin history alongside such other venerated state symbols as the polka (state dance), Antigo silt loam (state soil) and the trilobite (state fossil)."

Now, project coordinator Mary Hartl, who caught me at the cheese festival this past weekend with a bright yellow flyer touting the project, is urging folks like you to contact the chair of the Agricultural Committee, Senator Vinehout, to set a hearing date on the bill so it can move forward. Mary wants all of us to Email Senator Vinehout to let her know that we want Wisconsin cheese to be our state snack.

Here's the story behind the story:

The idea to make Wisconsin cheese our state snack was started during the 4th quarter of the 2005-06 school year. At that time, Hartl's 4th grade Wisconsin History class was studying state symbols. After reading about the symbols in the Blue Book, the class decided it would be a great idea to try and get a state snack passed by the state Legislature. Since the class had recently studied Wisconsin government, she decided this would be a good project for the students to experience the law making process.

The students did a lot of research and contacted 81 cheese factories asking for their support. Sixty-seven replied, all supporting the project. Then the class contacted Sen. Tom Renolds, but since the school year was almost over, no further progress was made until 2006-07.

That year, the fifth graders, who were no longer studying Wisconsin history, continued their enthusiasm. The new fourth grade class took over as active participators. They updated the previous year's research and designed/produced a Cheese Map of Wisconsin illustrating their findings. They also contacted Senator Jim Sullivan to introduce the bill and wrote more letters asking for support.

Although teacher Mary Hartl retired in 2007, she has continued to work with the two classes, who are now 7th and 8th graders, to make Wisconsin cheese our state snack. She says because of budget and other important issues, the cheese bill has been passed over many times. She's hoping that this year, is the year Wisconsin cheese will finally get its due recognition.

So come on, people! Let's rally around retired teacher Mary Hartl, her students in Wauwatosa and let's get this baby through the Legislature. Who couldn't use a feel good story?

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