Youth Art and Essay Contest winners

Five rise to the top in 2020 Youth Art and Essay Contest

The winners of the 2020 Youth Art and Essay Contest have been selected from hundreds of talented contestants.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife asked the state’s youth what getting outdoors meant to them and they answered: We received more than 250 submissions, and WDFW staff had their work cut out for them in picking winners in four categories from all the impressive entries.

Contestants were asked to send in artwork and writing that explored hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation.

We congratulate all the winners. They will each get an official WDFW certificate, a Fish WA sweatshirt and a Get Outdoors hat. With such a great response, we plan to hold this contest again in the future.

The winners and their entries

Art, 11 and under:

“Rainbow Halibut” by Gracie Olsen

Essay, 11 and under:

“My Favorite Day of Fishing” by Liliana Scordino

I recently went on a really amazing fishing trip with my Dad, even though we didn’t catch anything. It started at sometime around noon, my Dad was driving the boat to a supposedly nice halibut fishing spot. After a while of not catching anything we decided to move to a different spot closer to home (Neah Bay). While we where heading over, we spotted a group of boats and in/around the center of them where killer whales! We soon found out that there where about 4 killer whales, one big male, a baby, a female, and a smaller male killer whale. These killer whales where fish eaters my Dad told me, you can usually tell by the size of their pod, mammal eaters travel in smaller pods where as the fish eaters travel in larger pods. As we watched we noticed that the boats were practically on top of the killer whales. It’s very important to have your engine off when you’re near killer whales. Why? Because killer whales rely on sound to find food, communicate with each other, and use echolocation to determine their surroundings. So, if we have our engines running the sound of them could mess up their hearing. This is why my Dad and I turned off the engine and depth sounder and stayed a ways away (about 300 yards). After a while they came a little closer to us then began to swim away. My favorite part of my day was seeing the killer whales and many other wildlife including seagulls, sea lions, a harbor seal, eagles, a great blue heron, porpoises, sea nettle and moon jelly jellyfish, jumping salmon, and a very annoying mosquito. Even though we didn’t catch any fish, it was still an amazing experience to fish with my Dad.

Liliana also included a drawing with her essay:

Art, age 12–17:

“Lonely Boys” by John Schmidt

Essay, age 12–17 (tied):

By Lelia Ollenburg

For centuries, brilliant scientists, artists, poets and other great geniuses have turned to Mother Nature for answers and inspiration. Why? To find out, you must venture outside and see for yourself.
I love the feeling I get when standing to face the wind, and the wind playfully blows my hair any way it wants to. I feel free, even though my hair serves as the wind’s marionette to do its bidding. I love the relaxing song of a babbling stream. It’s music in its purest form, yet the sound could never be replicated by human technology and still possess the same soothing qualities for the mind and soul. I love the way big, puffy cottonball clouds float around beneath a backdrop of peaceful blue sky, and if you look away for only a few moments, they can change drastically. The miracles of Nature are captivating…but why?

Well, there is no easy answer to this question. They just are.

We are just like the birds, the bees, the frogs, and all the other animal life on this planet.

We are children of Nature.

We, too, evolved to hunt, to gather, to respect our natural habitat and those who live in it. It is only in recent times that we have learned to cheat Nature, to move beyond the old ways of the past and live in the future. Nature is now at our mercy, and if we don’t change our destructive ways, it will have to try its hardest to adapt.

Humanity should never forget the miracle-laden world from which we came. It’s not too late to remember the way our ancestors lived off the land, and left little trace of themselves in the environment. We should smell every wildflower growing in the unruly corners of our backyards, and cherish every cheerful little songbird that flies through the skies above. We should take our shoes off, and get some dirt caked between our toes once in a while!

I believe that despite the fact we’ve created a human empire of the world, our species, Homo Sapiens, was always meant to live in the light and roam outdoors. It’s not good for our physical and mental health to stay holed up in our caves, nowadays called “houses”, for all our lives.

I may be old fashioned. I may even be part Sasquatch for all I know. I do know that I feel at peace with myself when I’m out in Nature, barefoot, and getting fresh air circulating through my lungs. Ignore the “wild man” stereotypes; earthing is a perfectly human thing to do!

And if you’re as human as me, you should get out and explore the captivating wilderness we were made to live in.

“Lessons from the Outdoors” by Harrison Prow

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”. These words, from famous playwright William Shakespeare describe the powers given to man by nature. To love nature is to love oneself, and to appreciate the beauty of the world we live in is to appreciate the beauty of all of mankind. To me, time spent in nature is time spent with family and friends, and time spent with the people I love is always well spent. In my trips through forests and deserts, I have learned so much about myself. Physical skills necessary for survival, yes, but so much more. To stare down a snowcapped peak and realize that I have conquered it, from comparing backpacks before and after the trip, I learned a sense of pride and power. To lead a hike and see the younger children thrive as they explore what they are capable of, from see people completing the same hikes I did earlier, and to see what we all can become, I learned what accomplishment means. To wake up under a night sky full of stars, to feel the weight of your pack disappear from your shoulders as you reach the snow crested lake, I learned what beauty is. From a sleepless night in the cold, and to feel as parched as a desert I learned hardship. But from doing all this and more with my family, I learned love. I learned to care about my fellow hikers, to ensure everybody is having the same level of pleasure as me. To hear stories from people, and to learn from every action I see, human or animal. Every trip into the wilderness, I come back with much more than when I started, every time I look through my photos, I see myself feeling free, enjoying the beauty of an unedited life-and I see myself with others.

To climb a mountain alone takes an incredible amount of strength and perseverance. But to climb a mountain, hike a stream, or run through a trail with others takes humility, strength, acceptance. It takes knowing when to stop, when to go, when to wait for others, and when you must go alone. It teaches you to think about every step you take, about everything you saw, and ponder your experiences. Time in nature means time to reflect, to think of what you leave behind, as well as what you go towards. But time in nature also means to put your head down and push through, despite suffering and discomfort, to believe in yourself. And at the end of the day, when you reach the campsite or come back to the trailhead, you find a sense of pride, in completing the challenge, in overcoming the difficulty. But you also feel a sense of peace. Peace with yourself, with your companions, peace with the world. To me, that is truly what time in nature means.



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.