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A project 18 years in the making: Why the bullfrog will soon be on Ohio license plates

Grizzell Middle School teacher Shawn Kaeser started "Project Bullfrog" in 2002.

An Ohio middle school teacher has spent nearly two decades teaching his students a lesson in politics and science.

Grizzell Middle School teacher Shawn Kaeser started "Project Bullfrog" in 2002. The goal was to teach his students about politics and science by beginning their journey to make the bullfrog an Ohio state symbol.

Why the bullfrog?

"I get that question a lot," Kaeser said. "So, if you're going to make an animal a state symbol, it has to have really good name recognition. It should be found in all 88 counties ... the kids back in 2002 kind of boiled it down to the bullfrog or the toad and we felt like the toad had a lot of baggage."

The students wrote letters and made calls to their lawmakers. Then, in 2010, then-Governor Ted Strickland signed the bill naming the bullfrog as the state frog.

Ten years later, the eighth-grade social studies teacher had another task for his students: Get the bullfrog on a license plate. The students went to work again.

On Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 163, creating 33 specialty license plates. Among them, the bullfrog plate dedicated to preserving Ohio's wetlands.

"I'm glad it got passed. I was thinking in my head who would be against it really? It's an easy way to create awareness for the environment ... and start conversations around the state," Kaeser said. "Families might say, 'Hey do you see that bullfrog on that license plate? Why is that there? What's a wetland?'"

Students told 10TV they learned the power of politics and the importance of conservation through the project.

"It was a really cool way to see that my voice does count," said Lydia Foster. "Just because I'm a kid it doesn't mean I can't do stuff like this also. Even if I can't vote, I can still write a letter and have some say in something."

Jenna Wyner added, "I learned more about [the bullfrog] and I can really appreciate it when I see someone's bullfrog on a license plate."

A portion of the license plate proceeds will go to wetland conservation and education across the state.