River of Words

Our free, annual, international youth poetry and art contest — the largest in the world — inspires children ages 5 to 19 to translate their observations into creative expression.

Promoting Environmental Literacy through the Arts and Cultural Exchange

River of Words® (ROW) is a program of The Center for Environmental Literacy and a part of the Kalmanovitz School of Education.  Acknowledged pioneers in the field of place-based education, River of Words has been inspiring educators and their students for over seventeen years with an innovative blend of science and the arts.

River of Words is its own watershed: a linked network of people throughout the United States and the world who are committed to teaching the art and poetry of place to young people. Since 1995, River of Words has encouraged young people to explore and savor the watersheds where they live and trained educators to guide them with inspiration and passion. Through professional development and other educational services, traveling exhibits, publications and community programs, ROW reaches thousands of educators and young people around the world.

ROW was co-founded in 1995 by writer and activist Pamela Michael and then-US Poet Laureate (and SMC alumnus) Robert Hass. One of the program’s most noteworthy events, conducted in affiliation with The Library of Congress Center for the Book, is a free, annual international poetry and art contest for children in kindergarten through twelfth grade. ROW has donated their collection of children’s art—the largest in the world—to Saint Mary’s Hearst Art Gallery, which will exhibit the work and make it available for scholarly research. There are many opportunities available for SMC faculty to collaborate with this innovative and dynamic program through the Center for Environmental Literacy. For more information please contact Maureen Esty, River of Words Coordinator of Saint Mary's Center for Environmental Literacy, at [email protected] or 925-631-4289.



We are pleased to announce the winners and finalists of the 2015 River of Words Contest!

As usual, the judges had a difficult time choosing from the thousands of entries. This year's entrants displayed a remarkable connection to the places they live and to the workings of the natural world. We congratulate all the students and teachers who participated in this year's contest. The 2015 anthology and Watershed Explorer certificates are in production. Here is a list of the winners!

2016 Entries

We are working hard to choose our 2016 contest winners. Staffing and funding challenges have put us behind this year. We apologize for this delay.

Note: Due to rising costs and concerns about the environmental impact of air travel, we will no longer be holding our Youth Creativity Awards ceremony. Winning art and poetry will still be published in our annual anthology and on our website.

2017 Contest

The 2017 River of Words Contest deadline is approaching. Be sure to get your entries postmarked on or before December 1st!

To Enter click Here