ANNAPOLIS – Lobbyists usually bring sharp tongues when they speak before lawmakers, but Wednesday they brought sweet treats instead.
With individually wrapped apple oatmeal cookies in hand, 20 fifth- graders from Cecil County’s Tome School tried to tempt lawmakers into designating the munchie as Maryland’s state cookie.
The children filed into a House hearing room with three large baskets, filled with 220 apple oatmeal cookies the students baked in the school’s cafeteria.
“We think apple oatmeal cookies is a good choice because we don’t think people recognize the farming people in Maryland,” Caroline Kemp, 10, said before speaking to the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee.
She and the other children gave a carefully rehearsed presentation, ending with applause from the audience and lawmakers.
Six students told the panel how a class project on the 50 states brought them to Annapolis, two years after beginning the assignment as fourth-graders. Their research took them to Massachusetts, which designated chocolate chip as its official cookie. That state symbol sparked their interest in a possible Maryland munchie. More study revealed apples and oats were locally grown. The children then brought Delegate David Rudolph, D-Cecil, into the mix, who sponsored the bill with fellow Cecil County Delegate James Crouse. “The legislation is an outgrowth of student research on state government,” Rudolph said. “The students have taken citizenship to a new level.” One of the student presenters is already familiar with the public service responsibilities of good citizenship. Scott Baker is the grandson of Sen. Walter Baker, D-Cecil, as Rudolph pointed out to the panel. “That doesn’t help,” quipped Chairman John Wood Jr., D-St. Mary’s.
The student lobbyists didn’t stop with enticing lawmakers at the hearing. They passed out cookies at the Lowe House Office and the Miller Senate buildings.
“Would you like an apple oatmeal cookie?” the girls asked legislative and administrative aides at the Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee office. “We want to support Maryland farmers.”
They proceeded into the committee hearing and handed out cookies to each member. Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee Chairman Baker acknowledged the students from his grandson’s school in North East.
“You all have a license to eat your cookies,” the usually imperious chairman told his committee members.
It was a lot of work getting ready for the General Assembly, but the students said the project was worth it.
Plus, they learned a lot and had fun, too.
“This experience has helped us become more aware of government,” Scott Baker told lawmakers. “Maybe when you retire, we’ll be ready to take your jobs.”
The bonus of the project is the children now have a new favorite cookie, said 10-year-old Belva Dibert, of Elkton. “Chocolate chip comes second,” she said. “We all love the cookie.” Student lobbyists have had success in the past. Grade-schoolers in Allegany County last year pushed for calicos to become the official state feline.