W.Va. youth kinship with nature demonstrated through art

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“Rhododendron” () by Avani Gallentine; 3rd Grade; BEST in grades 3-5. Courtesy National Park Service.

Children raised in rural West Virginia have advantages that many others may not. Strong familial units and low-crime are commonly accounted for, but they also have the advantage of access to nature.

Richard Louv, 2008 Audubon Medal Recipient and author of “,” says children who spend time in nature demonstrate improved concentration, a greater ability to engage in creative play, and better motor fitness and coordination, especially with regard to balance and agility.

Flame Azalea by Anna Idle, 9th Grade

Louv says time spent in nature can also help children develop a healthy mental outlook, greater mental acuity, superior inventiveness, and sustained intellectual development, and it can aid in the treatment of mental illnesses, in particular ADHD and depression.

Children in south-central West Virginia have an additional advantage — proximity to a system of vibrant national parks that engage local youth at every chance.

Jodi French-Burr, a ranger and coordinator for Youth Arts in the Parks, says area children in the region are growing up with an enhanced relationship with the environment, and nowhere is that being demonstrated more than in youth art being submitted for the “Appalachian Spring Wildflower Art Contest.”

“It’s wonderful to see children producing incredible art based on their experience with the environment,” French-Burr said.

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“Hearing youth speak knowledgeably about wildflowers such a red trillium and yellow lady’s slipper is truly amazing.”

The annual contest is open to all K-12 grade students from Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers counties in south-central West Virginia. Youth are welcome to enter art through their school, a community organization, or independently.

Canada Violet by Xia Zickafoose.

Top entries will be showcased online and at a spring 2019 exhibit at the Tamarack arts center in Beckley, West Virginia, and contest winners will receive art-supply awards at a special ceremony.

The 2019 deadline for entries is Wednesday, February 6. Students, parents, and educators interested in signing up should to find updated 2019 contest rules, a list of accepted wildflower species, online entry procedures, special team challenge news, and wildflower reference photos.

This contest is part of New River Gorge Wildflower Weekend, being celebrated April 26-28, 2019. The annual spring event celebrates this region’s unique ecology and is hosted by staff and volunteers from Tamarack, the New River Gorge National River, and several southern West Virginia state parks.

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