River of Words Contest
The 2024 River of Words Competition will open early October 2023.
2024 River of Words Competition
Our free, annual, international youth poetry and art contest — the largest in the world — inspires students 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 twenty-five 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.
The 2024 River of Words Competition will open early October 2023.
Submissions due: January 31, 2024
Art must be mailed to:
Attn: River of Words
Filippi Academic Hall (FAH), 2nd Floor
1928 St. Mary's Rd., Moraga, CA 94556
PMB 4350, Moraga, CA 94575-4350
Please read the detailed instructions to our new submission process as many things have changed since last year.
1. All submissions are due by January 31, 2024 at 11:59pm after which the submission portal will close and no late submissions will be accepted for any reason. Winners will be announced Early April 2024. If you are a resident in Georgia or Arizona, please refer to the competition deadlines for your State Competition.
2. The contest is open to K–12th grade students, ages 5–19. Students must be enrolled in school to be eligible. All entries must be submitted by a parent, guardian, educator, or facilitator unless the student is 18 years old or older.
3. Participants may submit up to 5 entries for poetry and 5 entries for art (total of up to 10 entries). If more than 5 entries are submitted, we will only accept the first 5 as is. If multiple files or pieces of artwork are being submitted, then this form must be filled out once per submission.
4. All poems must be original work.
5. Poems should not exceed 32 lines in length (written) or 3 minutes (signed). For ASL poetry, please include a brief written summary of the poem’s content.
6. Collaborative poems and artwork are accepted, but only one student (chosen as the group representative) will be eligible for any prizes awarded.
7. At this time, we are able to accept poems only in English and Spanish.
8. We are going back to mail-in art submissions. Art must be mailed in order to be considered for the 2024 competition regardless of medium. If the art is a digital piece, please have it printed. Art will not be returned to the artist.
9. All artwork must be original work. Acceptable media are paint, pencil, markers, ink, crayon, chalk or pastel (fixed), photography, cloth, collage, and computer art.
10. Revisions will not be accepted. Please make sure your work is completed before submitting to the portal.
11. By submitting any work of any kind to River of Words, you are granting, on behalf of yourself and the student, to River of Words all rights in the work, including but not limited to the right to publish, reproduce, perform, distribute and to include the work in the River of Words annual anthology, on River of Words websites, or in any other publications deemed appropriate by River of Words. Works submitted to River of Words cannot be submitted for other publications or competitions.
12. Teacher and Group Submissions will only be accepted through this portal. We no longer accept submissions via Google or Dropbox. There is a new parental permission form to distribute in your classroom. Old parental permission forms will not be accepted.
13. Questions and concerns can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Translation Coming Soon
Art and Poetry Category Winners
One winner is selected in each of the four age/grade categories in Poetry. One winner is selected in each of the four age/grade categories in Art.
Entries will be judged in the following categories:
Category I: K-Grade 2 (Primary) or ages 5-7
Category II: Grades 3-5 (Elementary) or ages 8-11
Category III: Grades 6-8 (Intermediary) or ages 11-14
Category IV: Grades 9-12 (Secondary) or ages 14-19
Awarded to one international entry, either art or poetry, in any age category.
Shasta Bioregion Prize
Awarded to one entry, either art or poetry, honoring a Northern California watershed.
Monkey's Raincoat Prize
Awarded to a short poem in the tradition of the Japanese haiku. This award celebrates River of Words' founder Robert Haas, who has enjoyed a lifelong study and fascination of the form.
One Square Block Prize
Awarded to poems that examine city-scapes and the interaction between the manmade and the natural world. See 2018 River of Words finalists "Stoop Gardens in the City" by Ariella Brodie-Weisberg or "Down by the Batture" by Aiden Wiese for inspiration.
Note: The number of entries awarded Monkey's Raincoat, Shasta Bioregion, and One Square Block prizes are up to the discretion of the judges, but is typically awarded to one entry per year.
"On Writing" Poetry Finalists
This category of poems features narratives that reflect on the writing process and the speaker's connection to writing. See 2018 "On Writing" River of Words finalist "The Ant" by Grace Gorman or 2016-2017 "On Writing" River of Words finalist "Nature" by Lesley Mendoza-Gomez. Awarded to approximately 5 poems every year.
Art and Poetry Finalists
Approximately 50 finalists in art and 50 finalists in poetry are selected to be published alongside the Grand Prize winners. This amount can vary each year depending on the number and quality of submissions.
River of Words/Kalmanovitz School of Education Teacher of the Year
Awarded to one outstanding educator who utilizes River of Words practices in the classroom and actively empowers their students to engage with their watershed. For information about the Teacher of the Year nomination process, which runs year-round, click here.
"Southern Oaks" by Mabry H., Grade 2, Georgia, United States, Category I Grand Prize Winner
“Nature in Spring” by Daenerys Jude F., Grade 2, New York, United States, Category I Runner Up
“My Life as a Bee” by Valerie H., Grade 2, New York, United States, Category I Second Runner Up
“Rain” by Alyssa L., Grade 5, Arizona, United States, Category II Grand Prize Winner
“The Chorus” by Audrey S., Grade 5, Georgia, United States, Category II Runner Up
“Sky” by Alara C., Grade 5, New York, United States, Category II Second Runner Up
“Ode to the Wind” by Carter W., Grade 7, Maine, United States, Category III Grand Prize Winner
“Los Penasquitos Lagoon” by Eliana B., Grade 8, California, United States, Category III Runner Up
“Summer in New Orleans” by Marcus J., Grade 8, Louisiana, United States, Category III Second Runner Up
“Old Bones” by Lucy K., Grade 10, Oklahoma, United States, Category IV Grand Prize Winner
“Who” by Daniel K., Grade 11, Maryland, United States, Category IV Runner Up
“The Outsider” by Oscar S., Grade 10, New York, United States, Category IV Second Runner Up
“Things I love (#18 - #20)” by Ella F., Grade 10, California, United States, Honorable Mention
Special prize winners:
“Rain Science” by Anantha J., Kindergarten, California, United States, Category I Shasta Bioregion Prize
“The Tidepool” by Patience C., Grade 1, California, United States, Category I Monkey’s Raincoat Prize
“Haiku for Monkey's Raincoat” by Matis M., Grade 7, Malopolska, Poland, Category III Monkey’s Raincoat Prize
“Forests” by Datta M., Grade 8, California, United States, Category III Shasta Bioregion Prize
“Ocean’s Signature” by Alyssa W., Grade 10, California, United States, Category IV “On Writing” Prize
“Resistance” by Yolanda X., Grade 11, Kentucky, United States, Category IV Monkey’s Raincoat Prize
“Stevens Creek Steelheads” by Alexander X., Grade 10, California, United States, Category IV Shasta Bioregion Prize
“Penguins on an Iceberg” by Alex Z., Grade 2, California, United States, Category I Grand Prize Winner
“Reuse, Reduce, Recycle!” by Emma L., Grade 1, Georgia, United States, Category I Runner Up
“Fox Creek” by Amber H., Grade 2, Georgia, United States, Category I Second Runner Up
“Made for Each Otter” by Joy Y., Grade 5, Georgia, United States, Category II Grand Prize Winner
“TBD” by Amanda L., Grade 4, Minnesota, United States, Category II Runner Up
“River of Words” by Ayden Q., Grade 4, New York, United States, Category II Second Runner Up
“Guardian of Water, Goddess of Jeju Island” by Boyoon C., Grade 7, Seoul, Republic of Korea, Category III Grand Prize Winner
“Adverse Growth” by Jason W., Grade 6, California, United States, Category III Runner Up
“Stop the Smoke” by Eliana G., Grade 8, Florida, United States, Category III Second Runner Up
“Whale Fall” by Yunwen C., Grade 11, Beijing, China, Category IV Grand Prize Winner
“Dreaming” by Audrey Z., Grade 10, New York, United States, Category IV Runner Up
“Plastic bag Phantoms-Engulfed” by Erin Y., Grade 10, Georgia, United States, Category IV Second Runner Up
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2023 River of Words Winners
The River of Words team is thrilled to announce that our 2023 Art and Poetry Winners have been announced!
MEET DIANA AJJAN, OF JOHN F. KENNEDY MIDDLE SCHOOL; NORTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS
Diana Ajjan taught 7th grade ELA at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Northampton, Massachusettes, for 16 years before becoming a Reading Specialist, the role she currently holds. In her tenure at JFK, she has served as Department Chair, Theater Workshop co-director, and has collaborated on numerous projects with community members, including River of Words, A Celebration of Ancient Greece, and school-wide reading events. Prior to entering the field of education, Diana was a young adult book editor in New York City and freelance writer. She loves living in the town in which she teaches because she gets to be in the community with students both past and present. Find out more about Diana's amazing work in education below.