About 50 students at the Polaris K-12 School in Anchorage were in their principal's office Monday morning listening via speaker phone to the debate in the Alaska House on naming the Alaskan Malamute the state dog.
The idea to honor the malamute - a breed that originated in Alaska - came from a kindergarten student at the school and was taken up as a school project during the past two years.
Polaris teacher Carol Bartholomew said there was some consternation in the group of second through fifth-graders when the discussion veered off the dog's historical importance, which was key to their decision to pick the malamute.
So by the time the House voted 31-6 to designate the big, rugged, thick-coated dog as an official state symbol, after turning down two amendments to change it to sled dog or husky, they were on the edge of their seats.
"They were just sitting with baited breath, not wanting to breathe, while they were waiting for the final vote. And when the clerk read it, our kids screamed," Bartholomew said.
Bill sponsor Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, said she hopes their work on the bill will inspire the students to become engaged and active citizens.
Bartholomew said it's been a wonderful lesson in how government works.
"It's been something the students have a real passion for and for them to see how the process works, and that they do have a voice in this society, they saw that come through today. It was pretty important for them," she said.
The Alaskan Malamute originated in Alaska. The dogs were used by the Mahlemut tribe to haul game and take care of children. They also were used in Arctic explorations and during World War II.
The bill could come back up for a reconsideration vote in the House before it moves to the Senate.
If it passes the Senate and is signed into law by Gov. Sarah Palin, the malamute would join other state symbols like the state insect (four spot skimmer dragonfly), the state fish (the Chinook salmon), the state flower (Forget-Me-Not), state gem (jade), and the state fossil (Wooly Mammoth).
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