What started as a simple lesson on how bills become laws in New York State has become a vibrant example of democracy in action for students at Byron-Bergen Elementary School. Their crusade to make yogurt the Official New York State Snack took another step forward on April 10 with a visit to the school by two of the bill’s sponsors, New York State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Steve Hawley. Also present were industry representatives from local yogurt companies, including Roger Parkhurst from Alpina, Kevin Williams from Müller Quaker Dairy, and Mike Davis from Upstate Milk Cooperative.
The legislators gave students an update on the bill’s current progress through committee, and as Ranzenhofer said afterwards, were then treated to “…the best assembly I have ever attended!”
The visit and special yogurt presentation was coordinated by teacher Craig Schroth, whose fourth-grade class, the “Snack Pack,” initiated the plan to elevate yogurt to State Snack status. The event was a school-wide collaborative effort by teachers and students. It began with several videos, including a witty on-camera interview by student Sarah Streeter with an animated talking container of yogurt, which was produced by Elementary Student Council Advisor and fifth-grade teacher Ken Rogoyski. Sixth-graders Hannah VanSkiver, Miriam Tardy, Shaina DeJesus, and Peter Smith presented skits on the many health benefits of yogurt.
The highlight of the program was the show-stopping sing-along, which featured all the students joining in on popular songs with original, yogurt-based lyrics written by fifth-and-sixth-grade teachers. The Yogurt Band featured music teachers Bob Lancia on bass, Kevin Bleiler on percussion, and Karen Tischer on guitar. The participating yogurt companies treated the students to samples of yogurt at the conclusion of the program.
“I am so very proud of our students and staff for putting this idea into action and actually helping to create legislation,” says Byron-Bergen Elementary School Principal Brian Meister. “It has really become a powerful way for kids to apply what they are learning in the classroom to how our government operates. These kids are on their way to changing the world!”
The students’ bill is indeed on track to making a genuine economic impact on the state and the community. “If this becomes law,” says student Alayna Streeter, “there will be more opportunities for farmers who milk the cows, for drivers who deliver the milk, for people who make it into yogurt and other products, for distributors, and stores – jobs all down the supply chain.” Follow the progress of the bill at http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S6695-2013.
Featured photo caption: Student supporters of yogurt for Official New York State Snack welcome industry representatives from Alpina, Müller Quaker Dairy, and Upstate Milk Cooperative.