Washington’s missing link could be the Columbia woolly mammoth, an 11-foot tall vegetarian that grazed on both sides of the Cascades 10,000 years ago.
While 28 states have an official fossil, Washington has none.
The oversight was discovered two years ago by Chris Pineo, a fourth-grader at Windsor Elementary, and his second-grade teacher, Sara Aebly.
What began as a second-grade science unit in 1994 - the study of ancient animals - evolved into House Bill 1088, presented to the state Legislature last month.
Aebly and Pineo testified before lawmakers Jan. 31 at the request of House Law and Justice Committee Chairman Larry Sheahan, R-Rosalia.
For the presentation, Chris drew a color poster of the Ice Age inhabitant and read a poem about the peaceful, plant-eating mammoth written by Larry Marlett, Windsor’s physical education specialist.
Sheahan drafted the bill last May after Aebly and her students wrote to their 9th district representative asking his assistance. Sheahan said the bill is a wonderful way for students to become involved in state government, and the mammoth is “an excellent choice.”
If the bill becomes law, the Columbia woolly mammoth would become the state’s official fossil, joining the official state bird, the willow goldfinch; the state tree, the Western hemlock; and state fish, steelhead trout.
In 1994 Aebly’s second-grade students discovered that a fourth-grade teacher in Colorado had led a successful legislative campaign to make the stegosaurus that state’s offical fossil.
The summer between second and third grade, Chris and some of his classmates pored through dozens of books trying to find a dinosaur that might be a candidate for the state symbol.
“We did some research and found out there were no dinosaur fossils (in Washington),” Chris said. “But that didn’t matter. We did some more research and found the mammoth was here.”
Students contacted several university professors in search of an appropriate fossil, and Larry E. Davis, professor of geology at Washington State University, told them the state was once a playground for mammoths.
Davis told students that paleontologists had found the remains of the woolly mammoth across the state.
Mammoth bones were unearthed near Port Angeles, while teeth and tusks were uncovered in the Palouse.
“This is a valuable piece of our history and geography, a significant piece to a puzzle,” Aebly said.
Chris said the project has been a rewarding experience, but his class has learned that turning an idea into a House bill, then law, requires patience.
The legislature, like a mammoth, moves slowly.
“One step (down), six more to go,” Aebly said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos
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