Photo by Joel Hall
Carol Lambert, senior conservationist at the Newman Wetlands Center, stands next to winning entries from the 2009 Georgia River of Words Competition. The 54 entries, by K-12 students throughout the state, illustrate various interpretations of the importance of watershed conservation.
By Joel Hall
Every year, students from around the country enter River of Words, a national competition which challenges them to better understand their local watershed through photography, poetry and art. Until the end of this month, the Newman Wetlands Center will display winning entries from the state level of the competition.
The 2009 Georgia River of Words Exhibit will be on display at the Newman Wetlands Center's Interpretive Center in Hampton, from Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m., and 5 p.m., until the end of April.
The 54 winning entries on display were whittled down from 3,160 entries from kindergarten-through-12th-grade students throughout the state, according to Jo Adang, state coordinator for Georgia Project Water Education for Teachers (WET), and the River of Words competition.
Adang said the artistic watershed competition was started in 1997 by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, who wanted children to explore their environment.
"This gets kids outside, and interacting with their environment, through art and poetry," Adang said. "It also connects literacy with science. Whenever a student can learn about a particular subject, and can react to it through art and poetry, it becomes soulful ... it really becomes part of what they want to believe in, and what they want to learn. It incorporates Robert Hass' vision of teaching children how to observe, journal, [and] notice minute things."
Much of the poetry in the exhibit plays on themes of conservation and preservation and includes titles such as, "Timeless," "The Creek," "Conserve and Preserve," and "The Magic of Creation."
Art and photography in the exhibit feature visions of sea mammals, waterfowl near garbage-filled waters, running streams, dry creek beds, muddy boat shoes, and various aspects of nature.
The Clayton County Water Authority, which operates the wetlands center, spends a great deal of time going into schools and educating children on the importance of water conservation and watershed protection, said Carol Lambert, senior conservationist at the wetlands center. She said the River of Words contest fits into what the water authority attempts to do on a regular basis.
"The general message of the water authority is how vital of a resource this [water] is and how we have to work to conserve it," Lambert said. "Most people don't realize there is no new water. If you've taken the time to write something, poetry or prose, you've thought about it more deeply. Some of the art might not necessarily have to do exactly with water, but some of it deals with how everything is interdependent."
Lambert said the River of Words competition allows K-12 students to translate what they know about nature and their watershed into art and poetry. She said she believes the contest helps students learn that water can be approached as both a science and a humanity.
"A river, a lake, a stream ... all of those are conducive to artistic skills," Lambert said. "They are quiet, beautiful places and it appeals to a lot of people. For a student who is artistically inclined, that translates very well in their work."
The Newman Wetlands Center is located at 2755 Freeman Road in Hampton. For more information, call (770) 603-5606.