May 15, 2000
by Deborah Stone, features writer
In celebration of National Poetry Month, Environmental Defense held a "Kids' Poems for the New Millennium" contest.
More than six hundred entries by young people were e-mailed from all over the world. Poems were received from as far away as Saudi Arabia and Taiwan, as well as from all over the U.S.
Children showed a range of environmental concerns and a spirit of celebration for topics as diverse as oceans, seasons, and human rights. Many of the poems showed concern for the worsening state of the environment, and others provided models for the way the environment should be.
The judges received so many high-quality submissions that they also awarded a number of honorable mentions and special prizes. Winners received membership in Environmental Defense, as well as books, T-shirts, and other gifts to help them spread the word about environmental protection.
Among the participants were twenty-three fifth graders in Fred LaMont's class at Wellington Elementary. An honorable mention was awarded to student Sara Warren, age eleven, for her poem entitled, "If I Was A Fish."
LaMont, a veteran Wellington teacher of twenty-two years, was impressed with the poems his class wrote. He says, "It was amazing what they came up with in just a short amount of time. I presented the parameters of the contest, which were few, and we talked about different types of poems, so the kids knew that they weren't restricted to just those that rhyme. It was very open-ended, with the topic as the environment. Since fifth graders in the district all go to Camp Casey, we study about the environment and marine biology in preparation for the trip, so they already had some knowledge about this topic. They've also written various types of poems before. [The group] brainstormed ideas and then wrote first drafts and then final drafts. The complete process took about four days."
This was LaMont's first involvement with the Environmental Defense contest. Mary Smith, a parent of one of his students, brought the contest to his attention--it sounded interesting, and so he decided to encourage his class to enter. It was a delightful surprise to learn that his student Sara Warren had been awarded an honorable mention.
"With the size and scope of this contest, you never know what will happen," comments LaMont. "It's great that Sara's poem was recognized."
Sara's reaction to winning a prize was surprise, also. She says, "I think I was pretty lucky, considering all the poems that were entered. I really didn't think mine was that good."
Sara thought about ideas as she took the bus home on the day the assignment was given and it took her only a half-hour to write her poem. She likes to write, and keeps a diary with ideas and thoughts, but doesn't write too many poems. She says, "I like poetry because I like the way it flows and it's interesting the way the words make pictures."
Sara is concerned about the environment and feels strongly about the need to protect it, especially the wildlife and air quality. She is an avid reader and enjoys playing soccer, basketball, and softball. Her goal is to become a pediatrician when she gets older, to help children.
by Sara Warren
If I was a fish, I'd look like diamonds.
I'd sparkle with silver and gold.
I'd swim around the world if I could,
But I'm not a fish.
If I was a bird, I'd have fluffy white feathers
That look like pillow down.
I'd fly around the world if I could.
But then again, I'm not a bird.
But I'm a kid,
So I'll watch the fish in the ocean and the birds in the sky,
And travel by boat and by plane.