Back in November, 20 of Patricia Young’s fifth grade students entered the Teaching the Hudson Valley competition, Writing about Place. It wasn’t until the end of last month the winners were announced. Out of the 30 participants in the grade 5-8 category, India Braine, Narelle Nailor, and Emma Byrne tied for first place and all hail from Cornwall Middle School.
“I’m so proud of them,” Young said. “I was surprised. I don’t know why I was surprised. I have some really good writers. I’m proud they accomplished this.”
The competition is open to any student, grades K-12, living and/or attending school in the 11-county Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. Competitors are broken into categories by grade level. Each group must follow different requirements such as topic and length of composition.
Young’s fifth grade students could have written a story about a resident, famous or infamous, real or fictional. They also could have chosen to write about a park, museum, or historic site in the Hudson Valley that is special to them.
The students were limited to 1,000 words and one illustration related to the subject. They also had to decide how they would present their entry – as a poem or short story.
Byrne, who wrote a poem about Black Rock Forest, opens by describing her surroundings.
“Black Rock Forest so high
grow up and up
touching the sky,
the pond glittering gleaming icy blue water
fish roam happily around,
acorns on the ground…”
Nailor also wrote a poem about her day at West Point’s Bull Pond. She recalls when she,
“…hopped off the rock
landed on a fluffy green patch of grass
little damp but I did not mind
walked to the beach
light brown wooden cabin…”
Braine took a different approach and decided to write a short story telling about her three visits to Knox’s Headquarters. Upon seeing the house for the first time, she explains what she sees.
“It just looks like a normal house with a stone building attached, big backyard, a garden, woods with wineberries and a creek, and stone benches.”
The entries were judged by teachers, museum and historic staff, Teaching Hudson Valley’s coordinator, and representatives of the Hudson River Estuary Program and the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College.
The readers looked for evocation of place, a vivacious voice, and use of conventions appropriate to each student’s age and development.
As their prize, the students will receive up to $900 to help cover the cost of visiting one of the places about which they wrote. In June, Young’s students will be visiting Black Rock Forest.