8 year old wants SC to adopt an official state fossil (With Quiz)

abeam@thestate.comJanuary 27, 2014 

South Carolina has 50 official state symbols — including a state heritage horse, a state migratory marine mammal and a state beverage — but it does not have a state fossil.

Eight-year-old Olivia McConnell wants to change that.

The third grader at Carolina Academy in Lake City wrote a letter to her state lawmakers — Rep. Robert Ridgeway and Sen. Kevin Johnson, both D-Clarendon — asking them to sponsor a bill to make the wooly mammoth the official state fossil.

But, first — before she could write the letter — she told herself she had to come up with three good reasons that the mammoth should be the state fossil.

“We can’t just say we need a sate fossil because I like fossils,” McConnell said. “That wouldn’t make sense.”

So Olivia gave her reasons:

1. One of the first discoveries of a vertebrae fossil in North America was on an S.C. plantation when slaves dug up wooly mammoth teeth from a swamp in 1725.

2. All but seven states have an official state fossil.

3. “Fossils tell us about our past.”

“Please work on this for me,” McConnell wrote to Ridgeway, signing her letter, “Your friend, Olivia.”

McConnell, who says she wants to be an Egyptologist when she grows up, likes to eat with her dad at a restaurant whose menu includes all of the state symbols. Of course, McConnell noticed immediately the menu said nothing about a state fossil — which is why she started her research.

Ridgeway has his own reasons for following through with McConnell’s request.

“Why not? It can’t hurt anything,” he said. “But the benefit to this is to the children and young people of South Carolina, letting them realize that they do have a say-so in what happens in South Carolina and, No. 2, it gives them experience and information about the governmental process and legislative process in South Carolina.”

If that’s Ridgeway’s goal, it is already working.

Ridgeway and Johnson both have filed bills — H.4482 and S.854 — to make the wooly mammoth, an extinct genus of hairy elephant, the official state fossil. McConnell said she faithfully is following the bills’ progress online, where both are in committee.

“It makes me feel really good,” she said. “It’s exciting.”

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Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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