Sandhill plums are used to make jellies and pies.

 Kevin Knight/Alamy Stock Photo (plums); (flag)

Kids Make State History

Students in Kansas teamed up to help their state get a new symbol.

Two years ago, a group of fourth-graders in Kansas made a big discovery about their state’s symbols. The students at Sabetha Elementary found out their state didn’t have a fruit as a symbol. So they decided to do something about it! 

What Is a Symbol?

A symbol is something that represents, or stands for, something else. For example, a bald eagle is often used as a symbol of the United States. 

States can have symbols too, like flags, birds, flowers, and fruit. They stand for the state’s values and traditions. 

Kids on a Mission

More than 30 states have an official fruit. The Sabetha Elementary kids wanted Kansas to be one of them. But it’s very hard to make a state symbol.

“They really worked as a team to accomplish this goal,” says their teacher, Jobi Wertenberger.

In 2021, he invited a state lawmaker, Randy Garber, to speak to the class. Garber explained a new law was needed to create a state symbol.

But an idea for such a law had failed recently. Would the kids be able to get their own idea turned into a law?

A Team Effort

One of the kids, Thomas Richardson, came up with a plan. He suggested getting more kids involved. That might give their fruit idea more power. They emailed other schools. Before long, more than 400 students from 24 schools were working as a team. Together they decided they wanted the sandhill plum to be the state fruit.

Next Garber wrote a bill, or an idea for a law, that would name the plum as an official Kansas symbol. But the state’s legislature still needed to vote on it.

To get lawmakers excited about the bill, the kids wrote letters and gave speeches. The kids’ hard work paid off. Lawmakers voted to approve the bill! 

Making History

In April, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed the bill. It became a new law. The sandhill plum is now the state fruit of Kansas. Thomas wants other kids to know anything is possible with hard work. “We’re a part of history!” he says. 

  1. What is a state symbol, and what are some examples?
  2. Why did students at Sabetha Elementary decide to get more kids involved with their idea?
  3. Based on the sidebar, “Steps to a State Symbol,” how did the students turn their idea into action?
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