HELENA, Mont. — Fourth graders from Vaughn School in Cascade County visited the State Capitol this week. Fourth grade teacher Amy Brooks helped administer the trip, which included a visit to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Students began their day in the House State Administration committee, where all 18 testified in support of House Bill 880 to make the huckleberry the official state fruit of Montana. Representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway sponsored the bill, and her granddaughter was among the fourth graders in attendance.
Students previously spent a day creating their own government, dividing into a House, Senate, and a Governor, and discussing two bills. Rep. Sheldon-Galloway worked with Mrs. Brooks to have students determine their choice for the state’s official state fruit. According to Brooks, students broke into three groups to research three different fruits: the Flathead cherry, chokecherry, and the huckleberry. Students created slideshows and presented to the entire school, polling students, staff, and school board members on which fruit they believed should represent Montana.
Sixty-four selected the huckleberry, 58 voted for chokecherry, and 37 chose the Flathead cherry.
“There are a few places I found where huckleberries grow, such as Lake Inez Campground, Morrell Falls hiking trail, and Boy Scout Road hiking trail near Seeley Lake Campground,” spoke one student. “People don’t want to tell other people where they pick their huckleberries so they can have more huckleberries for themselves.”
“Grizzly bears depend on huckleberries as a critical food source to fatten up before winter hibernation. The Grizzly bear is also our state animal, so it would be amazing to have a state fruit that our state animal eats,” said another student.
“Huckleberries are eaten by these animals: bears, coyotes, moose, cottontail rabbits, deer, caribou, and many more animals. This is because the huckleberry has many nutrients. I believe the huckleberry should be our state fruit,” another student said.
House Bill 880 passed unanimously, 18-0, from the House State Administration committee following the students’ testimony.
Following the committee hearing, the fourth graders visited the Governor’s Office, learning about the role it plays during the Legislature and throughout the remainder of the year. Students then made the trek down the second floor corridor to the Secretary of State’s Office, where they discussed the roles and responsibilities of the Secretary, including the Elections Division, Business Services Division, Notary and Administrative Rules of Montana.
Each student was given a copy of the United States and Montana Constitution and invited to participate in Secretary Jacobsen’s Constitution Contest in the fall. Students also learned about the history of the state seal and its significance throughout Montana history.
“What a treat for these fourth graders to not only visit the Legislature, but participate in it by testifying in support of a bill they helped craft,” said Secretary Jacobsen. “Thank you to Mrs. Brooks, Vaughn School, chaperones, and Rep. Sheldon-Galloway for making their trip to the State Capitol possible. And thank you to the students for visiting the Secretary of State’s Office. Go Team Huckleberry.”
Note: This story was revised with updated polling numbers from Vaughn School.