Students pushing Potomac bluestone for official D.C. rock

June 17

The District has an official flower, the American Beauty rose. The city also has an official bird, the wood thrush, and an official tree, the scarlet oak. But unlike most U.S. states, it has no official rock.

A fourth-grade class in Northwest Washington is seeking to change that.

Students in teacher Risha Clark’s classroom at John Eaton Elementary discovered while they were studying Earth science recently that the city doesn’t have an official rock. That seemed like a problem to 9-year-old Peter Herrick.

“I thought, after I figured out Maryland had a state gem, that there was a rock we could have,” he said, referring to Maryland’s Patuxent River stone.

Peter suggested that the Potomac bluestone would represent the District well, as it is commonly found in the region and has historic significance, resting at the foundation of the White House and the Capitol.

When D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) visited the class a few days later, the students thought it would be a good opportunity to push their agenda.

“Mr. Catania came into our classroom and asked if we had any questions. I asked if we could have a state rock,” Peter said. “It just seems cool that we could have a rock that we could admire. We already have a tree and a flower.”

Catania said Tuesday that he didn’t know anything about the Potomac bluestone until he visited the Eaton class and was impressed with the rock’s local pedigree. From that inquiry, Catania helped the class launch the “D.C. Rocks” campaign, which led to the fourth-graders attending the council’s meeting Tuesday wearing tie-dyed field day T-shirts that they made.

Catania, who is running for mayor, introduced a bill that would make the stone the city’s official rock by next year.

Clark, a teacher for 24 years, said that she has previously taken students to see what lawmakers do but that this is the first time her students have been the catalyst for legislation. School officials say the project has helped the students work on public speaking, persuasive writing, geology and social studies.

“It’s a nice civics lesson they’re getting,” Clark said.

Kendal Stewart, 10, said that she had never been to the John A. Wilson Building, where the council meets, and that she was excited to see government at work.

“We don’t always get field trips like this one,” she said, comparing it with museum excursions.

Tuesday’s events were the first steps in recognizing Potomac bluestone as the official rock of the District, said Brendan Williams-Kief, Catania’s chief of staff. The proposal won’t come up for a vote before the fall, so the students hope to return as fifth-graders to witness the outcome. All of the council members in attendance Tuesday offered support as co-sponsors of the class’s D.C. Rocks project.

Peter Herrick said he could not think of anything else that he would lobby the council for, but others in the class had plenty of ideas, including longer recess and free candy.

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