Walsh presides over Little Legislators
By ELISA SAND, Staff Reporter
Madison Elementary Principal Dan Walsh has enjoyed watching fourth-grade students learn about the legislative process each year.
Madison Elementary Principal Dan Walsh receives a plaque recognizing his longtime service as Governor of the Little Legislators from fourth-grade teacher Marletta Eich.
Every January, Walsh swears in a new group of fourth-graders who participate in a Little Legislators program that was developed by Marletta Eich when she started teaching Madison elementary students in 1995.
The program grew from correspondence and Eich's work with state legislators as a Chester Area School teacher starting in 1993.
In 1993, Eich's elementary students researched the dangers of cigarette smoke and sent their ideas to Pierre. The letters were read on the Senate floor and aided in the passage of a bill to ban smoking in the state Capitol. The following year, students researched seat belt use and their presentation aided in the passage of a seat belt law that was under consideration.
Today, Eich's Madison fourth-graders work together to draft bills, discuss them in committees, consider them as larger groups of senators and representatives, and present them to "Gov." Walsh for his consideration at the end of the session.
After reviewing the bills, Walsh said that he returns to the classroom to explain his decision on each bill.
"They come up with some good rationale," Walsh said of the student bills presented for consideration.
Walsh was recognized on Tuesday (today) for his longtime role as governor for the Little Legislators program.
Walsh said that some bills over the years have been commemorative in nature and recognized certain individuals, while other bills have presented specific requests -- like improvements to the playground or permission for a civic-minded project.
One request for the playground was for the establishment of a soccer field, and Walsh said that request was taken into consideration and coordinated with the PTO when equipment was purchased.
"That request was honored," Walsh said.
Civic projects have included cleaning up Lake Herman State Park, singing at the nursing homes and meeting with residents at the nursing homes.
"It's worthwhile for kids to do those things," Walsh said.
Part of the program includes a field trip to Pierre, where students get the opportunity to meet their legislators. That trip has been sponsored for several years. Walsh said last year was the final year for one sponsor and organizers thought it would be the end, but then a group of local sponsors stepped forward so the trip could continue.
Other parts of the program include corresponding with current legislators in Pierre and hearing updates from District 8 legislators.