U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today officially awarded a Porter Ranch, Calif., fourth-grader with the top prize in the 2013 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest co-sponsored by the National Garden Clubs Inc.
Crystal Baik received a trophy, a framed copy of her art and a Smokey Bear doll for her full-color poster depicting a couple inside of a tent while their campfire blazes in the night. She included Smokey Bear saying, “Don’t forget to turn out the campfire!” Another element to her scene includes forest animals scurrying away as fire begins to burn the tent.
“This program captures the imagination and talents of so many young children,” Tidwell said. “What better way to spread the messages of Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl than through the artistic expressions of our children.”
In creating the winning poster, Crystal Baik bested more than 25,000 other first- through fifth-graders who entered the contest through their local garden clubs.
In what may be a first for the contest, two of the top five winners are siblings and three of the five attend Porter Ranch Community School and entered their art through the Southern California Garden Club.
Crystal took top honors in the fourth-grade category before being named the national winner. Other grade-level winners are Bohmi Yoon of Northridge, Calif., first grade and another student at Porter Ranch; Gauri Chugh of Hoffman Estates, Ill., second grade; Solomon Baik, the third Porter Ranch student and Crystal’s brother, third grade; and Brianna Morris of Bonner Springs, Kan., fifth grade.
“Can you imagine our surprise when Porter Ranch school faired so well in the contest?” said Elaine Dates, who for six years coordinated the contest for the National Garden Clubs. “It didn’t matter whether it was in a school, a scouting group, or after school, there is a deep respect to just do the best. They are not messing around. They are doing a good job. A great job.”
Garden clubs from across the country solicit entries, and the best entries from their clubs are sent on to regional or state level competition without the names of the children or the schools visible. State level winners are then sent to one of eight regional Garden Clubs judging levels before the best 40 posters are sent to Dates, who uses a panel of three Forest Service judges and two Garden Clubs judges to pick the grade-level winners. This year, more than 100 Forest Service employees in Washington, D.C., participated in the final vote to choose the national winner among the five grade-level finalists.
National Garden Clubs works with the Forest Service across the country to promote wildfire prevention among elementary school children by conducting the annual contest. Winning artwork is then used by the Forest Service in promotional and conservation education materials.
When the poster contest started in 1960, it focused on Smokey Bear, the nation’s iconic wildfire prevention symbol. The first poster contest winners were named in 1961, chosen from just 458 student entries. Woodsy Owl, a Forest Service symbol for conservation since 1971, became part of the poster contest in 1974.
The contest has since blossomed into an original artwork challenge for children in first to fifth grades with more than 20,000 entries each year. Schools and other groups often use the contest as an educational platform to teach children fire prevention and conservation messages.
Programs such as the poster contest are part of a wide range of conservation education programs supported by the Forest Service. The agency works with more than 2,500 individual organizations on the national, state, Tribal and local levels to offer structured educational experiences and activities targeted to varying age groups and populations. The Forest Service has a long history of helping people, especially children, realize how natural resources and ecosystems affect each other and how resources can be used wisely. In fiscal year 2012, nearly 7 million people participated in Forest Service environmental literacy programs and activities.
The programs are consistent with President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative that seeks to empower Americans to share in the responsibility to conserve, restore and provide better access to our lands and waters, and leave a healthy and vibrant outdoor legacy for generations to come.
The National Garden Clubs is a not-for-profit educational organization that includes nearly 200,000 members in 50 State Garden Clubs and the National Capital Area.
2013 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest Gallery
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.