Earth Day Photo & Essay Contest

More than 800 students in grades 5-8 took part in a unique national contest to photograph our changing world. The contest was organized by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. From CEC Specialty Group Leader Nancy Colleton of IGES.

First place winner: Home Sweet Home

Arlington, Va.-- More than 800 students in grades 5-8 took part in a unique national contest to photograph our changing world. The winning photos capture nature in action across the country, from the rocky California coast, to the vulnerable Louisiana wetlands, to the picturesque north shore of Long Island.

This was the fourth-annual Earth Day Photo & Essay Contest held by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).

"We're delighted that so many young students had the chance to discover the value and fun of documenting the nature and science of our changing planet through photography," said IGES President Nancy Colleton. "The quality of the entries was truly remarkable and made it quite challenging to select the winners."

Along with their photograph of something changing in their local environment, middle schoolers submitted an essay answering the following questions:

  •  What is the change taking place in your photograph?
  •  What may be causing the change?
  •  Was the change expected?
  •  How might the change impact surrounding areas, including people?
  •  How might this picture look different in the future?

Entries were judged by IGES staff based on relevance to the contest theme (depiction of change in the environment), uniqueness and overall appearance of the photo, and quality of the written explanation.
Martin Serrano, a sixth-grader from Rye Brook, N.Y., earned first place with his photograph of a yellow jacket building a nest. "Our environment is constantly changing in beautiful ways. What we see in my photograph is a queen yellow jacket building a nest after having mated with one or several male wasps," reads an excerpt from Serrano's essay. "This yellow jacket will soon lay eggs and store them separately in the small cavities of the sack also shown in the photograph. This way every egg will have its own cell."
Jessica Steinort, a seventh-grader from Scarborough, Maine, won second place with her picture of a road flooded out by a torrent of water. Steinort wrote: "This road was changed by the force of nature faster than a running gazelle, as are many natural disasters. Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, these are all this flooded-out road on a massive scale. One change, one extra inch of snow, one more droplet of water, can change the world forever. Blink and you'll miss it."

Third place went to Andrew Broffman, an eighth-grader from East Norwich, N.Y., whose colorful snapshot captured flowering tree branches framing a blue sky with clouds and birds.
The top three winners receive a digital camera, digital photo frame and digital photo keychain, respectively. The top 10 (including the top 3) winners receive their photograph in a commemorative frame.

To view the winning photos from this year and previous years, please visit:

About IGES: Located in Arlington, Va., IGES was established in 1994 and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization supported by public and private entities. IGES is a trusted leader in Earth and space science education, communication and outreach, and in fostering national and international cooperation in observing the Earth.

Sponsor a Student Contest: Is your company or organization looking for a way to support science education? Contact IGES at info@strategies.orgfor sponsorship opportunities. In addition to the photo contest for grades 5-8, IGES offers a science-themed art contest for students in grades 2-4, and cash awards for grades 9-12 students demonstrating the best use of geospatial tools or data to study Earth.

Dan Stillman
Institute for Global Environmental Strategies

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