Eighth graders learn how a bill becomes law - by literally trying to pass one themselves

"I'm just a bill. I'm only a bill. And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill."

Rings a bill - err bell - doesn't it? That bit of elementary educational lore was etched into the history books after a 1976 Schoolhouse Rock! segment attempted to teach kids how a bill became a law.

Well middle school students from Orion Township have evolved the old sketch cartoon, pushing to enact new legislation that would designate a state game bird in Michigan - learning about what it takes to pass that bill along the way.

"We are going to prove why the eastern wild turkey is actually the best game bird for Michigan because there are plenty of birds that people hunt in Michigan," said Alexia Kalush. "It's a big thing around here, but we're going to show you why the turkey is the best and why we want it to represent our state."

Kalush is a student at Waldon Middle School. Together, she and her classmates have coalesced around an effort to cement Michigan's first state game bird. Their campaign started at the beginning of the school year.

So far, HB 4589 has made it half way to getting the governor's signature. Currently, it's awaiting a hearing from the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee.

"We are tracking where it is in the process," said Lily Rasbach, another middle schooler, "but we're just going to talk about some scientific facts and we all wrote an essay and he chose a few of us to go and testify."

"He" is John Gray, the eighth grader's science teacher, and he's managed to fuse a class unit that teaches about aviary science and the inner-workings of government, while also gunning for a place in Michigan legislative lore. After noticing Michigan has a state game animal in the white tailed deer, but no state game bird, he sought the help of his students.

"...and that reflects our rich culture of hunting and fishing in the state, so it's something that would represent the state and the culture of hunting that we have here," he said.

Recruited to teach the "bill" part of the lesson plan is Jillyan Fuller, a history teacher. Together, the two teachers have guided the students through Lansing's governmental process, showing them what it takes to make something law.

It takes patience.

"It takes longer to pass, or to even become a bill," Ashleigh Major said. "It takes a lot longer. People think it takes a shorter amount of time to become a bill."

It takes education.

"You have to have a lot of evidence to back up what you're trying to put in," said Jillian Conrad.

And a pioneering attitude to try something new.

"I think it's kind of a stereotype that we're not very smart and we just use our phones all day," said Christian Bade, "but this shows we can not only make changes in the community, but be smart and curious."

If you're equally curious about the eastern wild turkey or how students could take on the grueling process that is legislating, they'll be making an appearance in Lansing on June 4 to stake their case for why Michigan needs a state game bird.

Oh, and in case you forgot: