Young writers imagine a world where water flows and crops grow
By Kate Campbell
Challenge young minds and amazing things can happen. Just take a look at the winning stories in the annual "Imagine this..." story writing contest sponsored by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. The contest aims to inspire young minds through themes related to farming and ranching.
Last year more than 10,000 stories poured in from California students in grades three through eight. And now thousands more are being penned in classrooms across the state. This writing flurry is focused on meeting the Nov. 1 deadline for the 2008 story competition.
Although the "Imagine this..." contest has been going on for more than a dozen years, Judy Culbertson, the foundation's executive director, says the contest always offers something new. For example, last year's winning stories, along with illustrations by emerging artists at four Sacramento-area high schools, were collected in a softcover book.
"The student-authors were thrilled to see their work illustrated and in print," Culbertson said. "They met the book's talented high school illustrators during Agriculture Day at the state Capitol and got to hand an autographed copy of the book to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger."
For a glimpse of the creative flare found in California students, take a look at the 2007 writing contest winners and "Imagine this..."
The Best Orange Tree Ever
by Hanna Bopp
3rd Grade, Fresno County
Kerman-Floyd Elementary - Margaret Nichols and Michelle Karagozian, Teachers
"I learned that oranges grow on trees and they're good for orange juice and vitamins, but next time I'm going to write about my favorite vegetable--cucumbers!"
What's the big idea?
Working together, members of a small town get the idea to plant an orange tree and are thrilled when they discover the healthy fruit and sweet juice the tree provides. Before long the townspeople plant a beautiful orange grove and stop to celebrate the harvest. People from other towns come to join them and they all enjoy a grand festival.
Farmer's Pride in Feeding America
by Mckenzie Carvalho
4th Grade, Colusa County
Maxwell Elementary - Dianna Detlefsen, Teacher
"I really wanted to do a story about watermelons, because I like them a lot. But when I started learning more about them I found out a lot of stuff I didn't know."
Big things from little seeds
The secret of watermelon is in its name. Ancient travelers used them to carry water. But that's not all, the story focuses on neighborly farmer Justin, who helps Mckenzie plant watermelon seeds and explains that watermelon is actually a vegetable--a member of the cucumber family. And, watermelons are the most-eaten melon in the United States, followed by cantaloupe and honeydew. Farmer Justin's advice to youngsters? "Plant, plant, plant those watermelon seeds!"
by Chance Holley
5th Grade, Stanislaus County
Chatom Elementary - Nancy Harris, Teacher
"Last year I learned about Indians and how they taught the Pilgrims to plant fish for fertilizer to make food grow. I used that idea and then I thought my story should have a moral: the idea of working together--something like friendship and agriculture."
A tale of two cities
Once there were two villages on a tropical isle. One group of villagers thought fishing was superior while the other thought planting crops was more important. In the middle of this long-running dispute, two boys--one from each village--trade fish for vegetables and over time become friends. One year, terrible storms came to the island. Fish were scarce and crops were destroyed. Both towns were starving. With less and less to trade, the boys come up with a plan that saves everyone on the island.
It's Not Easy Being a Green Teen Drama Queen
by Mackenzie Morton
6th Grade, Stanislaus County
Yolo Middle School - Sheila Kendall, Teacher
"I love tomatoes. They're my favorite so I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. And I think what makes it a good story is having fun with it."
Tammy Tomato is excited! This is her first year at Ketchup Junior High. She can't wait to show her friends from last season the leaves she sprouted. This season is going to be her juiciest, she thinks--or is it? Rolling toward class, Tammy notices the other students have matured. They're red, round and ripe, but she's still yellowish-green. She hides out in the bathroom feeling immature for the rest of the day. Tammy's mother eases her drama queen's fears and explains that sometimes it takes a while for a young tomato to ripen.
by Preston Munson
7th Grade, Siskiyou County
Scott Valley Jr. High - Tracy Dickinson, Teacher
"I'm a fifth-generation Angus rancher, but I'd never been to the Cow Palace in San Francisco before. It was exciting and that's where I got the story idea. I thought it would be really cool to imagine what the cattle saw."
Although cattle are a common sight in California, casual observers may not realize some cattle have very fancy pedigrees. Missy, a registered Angus heifer, is one of these purebred beauties. She offers an interesting perspective on livestock shows from the animal's point of view. During her trip to the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Missy sees things she has never seen before--skyscrapers and people of every size. She spends a sleepless night waiting to be judged.
Water Flowing Keeps Crops Growing
by Russell Sweet
8th Grade, Siskiyou County
Grenada Elementary - Debbi Hoy, Teacher
"I got my story idea from listening to the faucet drip on our sink at home. I wondered where all the water was going and how much as being wasted. I learned that what goes down the drain doesn't easily come back to be used again."
Every drop counts
During a sleepover at a friend's house, the drip-drip sound of a leaky faucet keeps Tim awake. His friend Tuck is used to the sound. The pair spar over who should get up and shut off the dripping faucet--and Tim offers his friend a lesson in the role of water in agriculture and the daily lives of all Californians. The "drippy" issue is resolved before they both fall asleep.
How to enter the "Imagine this..." contest
Students in third through eighth grades are encouraged to submit stories with an agricultural theme for the 2008 "Imagine this..." story writing contest. Stories can include a variety of topics--from growing crops to tending livestock to the importance of natural resources--but should reflect agriculture in a positive way.
Stories must be the work of one student, not a group effort, and be no longer than 750 words. Statewide winners receive a medal, a $100 savings bond and an expenses-paid trip to Sacramento, which includes travel expenses for the student's teacher and two parents.
Teachers receive $100 worth of resource materials and complimentary registration for the California Agriculture in the Classroom conference, held each year in October.
Deadline for entries is Nov. 1, and students from public, private and home schools are eligible to participate. Teachers may submit up to five student stories each.
The California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom is a nonprofit organization that supports educators with free and low-cost materials, training and information to promote agricultural literacy.
The book "Imagine this... Stories Inspired by Agriculture 2007" costs $10 and can be ordered by phone at 800-700-2482 or online at www.cfaitc.org/imaginethis.
Also posted online: a behind-the-scenes video and the winning stories from 2007, as well as more information about how to participate in the 2008 contest. Questions regarding the "Imagine this..." contest may be e-mailed to email@example.com.
Kate Campbell is a reporter for the California Farm Bureau Federation. She can be reached at 800-698-FARM or firstname.lastname@example.org.