James Pinsky: How to paint a better world for all of us

James Pinsky


A lot of children love to draw.

Some love to draw baths, others to draw money from bank accounts, and yes – a few draw on our last nerve. And, while a nice warm bath or plenty of cash in their pockets might make them feel good, chances are what most children draw won’t help save the world. But, if your child can doodle with a pencil, pen, paintbrush or even a crayon, then what he or she draws may very well could help save us all, or at the very least a few trees.

You see, the National Association of Conservation Districts is looking for a new poster to help spread the word about conservation-minded issues. This year’s theme is “We All Need Trees.”

Known formally as the National Conservation Poster Contest, the children’s competition is open to public, private and home-schooled students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Poster judging categories are by grade: kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, fourth through sixth grade, seventh through ninth grade and 10 through 12th grade.

Like most contests, you have to earn your way to the national contest, and that means you have to win at your local Soil and Water Conservation District first. If you live in the counties of Warren, Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke or the City of Winchester, then that’s us here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. Our deadline for submission locally is Oct. 7.

Terrific. So, what are the rules?

• Any media may be used – paint, crayon, colored pencil, charcoal, stickers, paper or other materials on regular posters.

• Poster size must be between 8 1/2 by 11 inches and 22 by 28 inches. (Or as rules at your local or state level).

• Posters should be packaged so they remain flat when sent for judging.

• An individual student rather than a team of students must create all posters.

• The 2016 stewardship title “We all need trees” must be on your poster. This is the only title eligible for the national poster contest. It can be with or without the hyphen.

• Each entry must have a signed entry form to be eligible for judging.

• Although younger students will most likely receive help in planning from parents or teachers, the National Association of Conservation Districts encourages each student to do as much of the work as possible by him/herself. Entries completed by students in their handwriting and coloring will score better than those designed, drawn and colored by adult assistance.

• Each entry to the state contest must have been judged at each conservation district’s or area contest prior to the state evaluation/contest.

• Posters must be judged at the state level. Individual posters cannot be sent for national judging by individuals. They must follow their state’s contest rules and deadlines.

Rules. Check. How do the judges decide who wins? That’s a great question.

Here is the judging criterion directly from the National Association of Conservation Districts:

• Conservation message (50 percent) (Poster uses correct theme).

• Visual effectiveness (30 percent).

• Originality (10 percent).

• Universal appeal (10 percent).

• Also taken into consideration: artwork completed on poster is that of participant (unless noted on entry form)

What does winning get you, aside from bragging rights?  How does cold, hard cash sound?

Winners at the state level will be awarded prizes and recognition and the winning poster in each category will be submitted to the National Association of Conservation Districts’ Poster Contest, where the top three posters in each national category of the national contest will receive monetary prizes. First place winners will receive $200, second place winners will receive $150 and 3rd place winners will receive $100. The National Association of Conservation Districts and the NACD Auxiliary sponsor the National Poster Contest program. The National Association of Conservation Districts, founded in 1946, is a nonprofit organization representing nearly 3,000 local conservation districts in the 50 states and U.S. territories.

If you think your child might know his or her way around a sketchpad and markers, I urge you to have him or her enter our local competition, but be ready for some stiff competition. After all anytime there’s a cash prize, it’s sure to draw a lot of attention.

James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.