Turf Mutt Middle School Contest Winners Announced

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After reviewing over 2,700 contest submissions, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) Research and Education Foundation and Scholastic announced the winners of TurfMutt’s national “The (Really) Great Outdoors” contest. Lauren Wu, a 6th grade student at Robert Healy School in Chicago, Ill., won the $2,500 grand prize for her essay and illustration about creating a community green space for her urban neighborhood. Designed to be inclusive so it serves everyone in the neighborhood, her outdoor space features an oak tree, a tree house stocked with books for reading, swings, zip lines, seating areas, flowers, shrubs and grass.

Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

“People, plants, and animals live together in harmony here,” wrote Wu in her entry. Wu’s teacher, Nicole Hauser, and the school will each receive a $750 cash prize.

“This is the first year we’ve expanded our annual contest to middle schoolers, who came up with some beautiful and, more importantly, functional and purposeful designs for green spaces,” says Kris Kiser, President and CEO of OPEI.

Hope Wheatley, an 8th grader at Franklin Township Middle School East in Indianapolis, Ind., won first place and a $2,000 cash prize for her entry. Wheatley created a comic strip that featured characters working together to design a community garden. Her teacher, Kelly Barnes, and the school will each receive a $500 cash prize.

The annual contest is part of the TurfMutt environmental stewardship and education program, which teaches students in grades K–8 to care for our living landscapes and appreciate their benefits. The program is marking its 10th anniversary in 2019.

Contest entrants in grades 6 to 8 were asked to design, by writing about and/or drawing, a nature space that works for their lifestyle and community no matter where they live—city, country, suburb, house, or apartment. The contest was sponsored by Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company.

The program’s educational materials, available at www.TurfMutt.com, are free and support Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) standards for grades K–8. The TurfMutt environmental education program, funded and managed by OPEI’s Research and Education Foundation, has reached 68 million students, teachers, and families since 2009.