4th graders help pick state fruit
The blueberry will be the official fruit of Mississippi as of July, thanks to a push from the Mannsdale Upper Elementary fourth grade class.
Gov. Tate Reeves signed House Bill 1027, filed by Rep. Jill Ford, into law on Monday, designating the blueberry as the official state fruit. The event even got a mention from “Good Morning America” on March 15.
Ford said the reason the bill was so important to her was because of the students.
“It is important to me to include and inspire future generations of leaders and these children are just that,” Ford said. “They are leaders who wanted to make a difference in our state. Ultimately, I believe these young leaders learned no matter how small their ideas may seem, they can make big differences. I am so proud of them and their accomplishment of seeing their blueberry bill signed into law.”
Lisa Parenteau, fourth grade teacher at Mannsdale Upper, said her students got the idea of making the state fruit a blueberry last October after reading an article in the Scholastic News Magazine about students in Kansas pushing their legislature to make the plum their state fruit. From there, “Project Blueberry” was born.
Parenteau teaches fourth grade math, science and social studies at Mannsdale Upper and said this is a special group of students.
“After reading that article, my class asked me if Mississippi had a state fruit,” Parenteau said. “I Googled it and saw we in fact didn’t have one. They then went out at recess and polled students to see what their favorite fruit was and had choices such as watermelon, grapes, strawberries, and more. I told them to do some research, and we discovered the blueberry was responsible for nearly $2 million in state tax revenue and is widely grown in the state.”
Parenteau then emailed Ford and asked her about the prospect of drafting a bill to make the blueberry the official state fruit, and her class was delighted to receive a phone call from Ford that same day.
Ford visited Mannsdale Upper in November, and drafted House Bill 1027 in January.
“The bill got through Committee and the House with only one ‘no’ vote, and passed unanimously in the Senate,” Parenteau said. “The governor signed it and it will officially become law in July. Some of my kids, even though they were on spring break, were there to watch him do it. This is a great group of students who pushed me along. I simply followed their dreams and helped them when I could. This was all them.”
The students got to take a field trip to the Capitol building on March 3, received a personal tour of the building, and got a standing ovation from the House floor.