By JOHN Y. COLE
The fifth annual River of Words awards ceremony, held in the Library's Mumford Room on April 29 combined excited young people, proud parents and guardians, good poetry and art, and an enjoyable and informative learning experience about the environment.
Twelve young people, ages 6 to 17, were honored for their creativity in linking poetry and art to their awareness of the environment around them. Emphasis in this national contest is on the theme of watersheds. As in past years, program moderator and former Poet Laureate Robert Hass responded to each poem and work of art and its author, often drawing insightful and surprising comments from the young creators.
The Center for the Book cosponsors the project with the International Rivers Network. River of Words was founded by Mr. Hass with Pamela Michael, who serves as project director. State centers for the book in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah are among the many organizational participants. Support comes from more than a dozen corporations, foundations and individuals.
The following students were honored at the ceremony:
- International Grand Prize (Poetry): Christine Yin, age 13, Guangzhou, China.
- National Poetry Grand Prizes: Calvin Hargis, 8, Aztec, N.M., Gracie Jordan, 12, Woodside, Calif., Kevin Maher, 12, Lafayette, La., Kt Harmon, 17, Vicksburg, Miss.
- National Art Grand Prizes: Angel Salto, 6, Brooklyn, N.Y., Rachel Rees, 10, Susanville, Calif., Shintaro Maeda, 14, Wichita, Kan., Eon Justin Hatter, 15, Decatur, Ga.
- Shasta Bioregion Prize: Brett Docherty, age 17, Bolinas, Calif.
- Anacostia Watershed Prize: El'Jay Johnson, 8, Washington, D.C.
The state of Georgia was featured in the program. The Georgia River of Words project presented a brief video about its activities, and Petey Giroux, the Georgia coordinator, in a costume as "Earthina," in words and music presented Mother Earth's views about the importance of water ("Why Don't You Keep It Clean? You Can Adopt A Stream! Pollution We've Seen: Clean Water's Nifty Peachy Keen!")
Then Mr. Hass presented the 2000 River of Words Teacher of the Year Award to Pamela Segers from Avondale Estates High School in Decatur, Ga. Nancy Larson Shapiro, director of the Teachers and Writers Collaborative in New York City, also spoke during the program and offered her support to the project.
In connection with River of Words 2000, on April 27 students from the Washington area attended a workshop that included a visit to the Anacostia River, which is a branch of the Potomac. On May 2, the Center for the Book hosted an educator's workshop that attracted 35 teachers, museum specialists and reading promoters.
Poetry from the 2000 prize winners and finalists has been published in a 55-page booklet, River of Words: The Natural World as Viewed by Young People. The artwork by the 2000 winners may be seen on the River of Words Web site.
In her introduction to the new booklet, Pamela Michael notes that a recent study showed that although "children in the United States could identify over a thousand corporate logos, few could recognize and name more than a handful of the plants that grew in their own neighborhoods." River of Words, she explains, "was created to help children regain an intimacy with the web of life and to develop a rich and sustaining" feeling for the "language of landscape."
The deadline for next year's contest is Feb. 15, 2001. For more information, contact River of Words, P.O. Box 4000-J, Berkeley, CA 94704, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: www.riverofwords.org.
Mr. Cole is director of the Center for the Book and co-chair of the Bicentennial Steering Committee.