Sept./Oct. 2015 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Christine Souza
California agriculture motivates students to create
An adventurous quail that enjoys farm life, an award-winning artichoke, a grape as it transforms into a raisin and a raindrop that waters crops: These are among the featured topics of the 21st annual "Imagine this…" Story Writing Contest.
The contest, coordinated by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, is intended to create a positive learning experience that promotes reading, writing and the arts. Students expand their knowledge about agriculture while also fine-tuning their literacy skills.
"I love involving the class in the story-writing process. It is a great way to encourage the kids to do research, learn how to write a good story and incorporate facts, and create this narrative that could possibly be a published work," said Gratton Elementary School teacher Rexann Jensen, whose seventh-grade student, Stephanie Temnyk, was honored for her story, "A Cat's Game."
Jack Overholtzer, a third-grader also from Gratton Elementary in Denair, recalls his class trying to hatch quail chicks from eggs to prepare for the contest.
"We tried to incubate quail in our classroom, but it didn't happen," he said. Even so, the experience led him straight to the top as a state winner with his story, "The Life of Charlie the Quail."
Inspired by California artichokes, fourth-grader Kahlan Patel, who attends Freedom Home School in San Diego County, learned that "artichokes are the immature flower of the artichoke plant and keep your body healthy." Her mother and home-school teacher, Stacy Patel, assisted with researching the many varieties of fruits, vegetables and nuts that grow in the state.
Grace Reyes, an eighth-grade student at St. Anthony School in Atwater, found inspiration for her story, "The Raindrop's Great Courage," closer to home from her father, who is a farmer.
"Agriculture is all around and is what feeds us," she said. "Something I learned that was interesting to me was that raindrops have to grow to a certain size for them to rain down."
Grace's teacher, William Mitchell, has been involved in the contest for a number of years and said many of his students' parents are farmers.
"I think it is important that all of our students are aware of how important agriculture is and the need for it is never going to go away," he said.
Now's the time to Imagine this...
Who: The "Imagine this…" Story Writing Contest attracts annual participation of more than 8,000 third- through eighth-grade students throughout California, including those from urban, suburban and rural schools.
What: "Imagine this…" rewards regional winners and then one from each grade is selected as the state winner. Top stories are bound in a book illustrated by high school art, graphic design and photography students.
Why: State winners receive a medal, e-reader and trip to Sacramento with their family and teacher during National Agriculture Week. Their teachers also receive $100 worth of classroom resources.
When: Entries must be postmarked by Nov. 1.
Where: Click here for more details!
Meet the authors—and their stories
The Life of Charlie the Quail
By Jack Overholtzer
3rd grade, Gratton Elementary School
Teacher: Sheila Amaral
Illustrated by Sheldon High School, Sacramento
"We got on the Internet, watched some videos and read books about quail. The quail is the state bird and there are 130 species."
After Farmer Brown moves Mama Quail and her nest into the barn, she soon lays spotted eggs. She and Daddy Quail are parents of 12 quail chicks, including the smallest, which Farmer Brown is partial to and names Charlie. An adventure seeker, Charlie loves farm life and is happy that Farmer Brown wants him to stay there.
An Artichoke Adventure
By Kahlan Patel
4th grade, Freedom Home School
San Diego County
Teacher: Stacy Patel
Illustrated by Inderkum High School, Sacramento
"I learned that 99.99 percent of artichokes are grown in California and I think that is a very impressive amount."
Mary and her pet chicken, Sandy, search her farm's artichoke fields to find one for a "largest artichoke" contest. After arriving at the fair, Mary realizes she forgot the gigantic artichoke and Sandy flies her back to the farm to retrieve the vegetable. They return to the fair just in time for Mary to enter—and win—the contest.
The Story of Great Grandpa Grape
By Kayleigh Lugowski
5th grade, St. Anthony School
Teacher: Susie Henriques
Illustrated by Woodland High School, Woodland
"I learned something special: that California agriculture doesn't only feed our state, but it feeds many parts of the world."
Great Grandpa Grape tells about when he was a young, juicy grape growing tall toward the sun on the vine. Once he joins a bunch, he is trimmed from the vine and placed on paper to dry in the sun. Now a raisin, he travels to the grocery store and eventually becomes a muffin ingredient.
By Gargi Rao
6th grade, St. Stanislaus School
Teacher: Marlene Bravo
Illustrated by Central Catholic High School, Modesto
"We can just go to a store and buy our food easily, but it is important to know how much hard work the farmers put into growing the food."
With dreams of becoming a pickle, a cucumber named Regal discusses challenges that she encounters growing on Freshsprouts Farm, such as sunlight-blocking shade and a hungry slug. She soon becomes friends with Hive, a bee pollinating
the cucumber plants. Harvest arrives and Regal lives her dream of being washed, pickled and put in a jar.
A Cat's Game
By Stephanie Temnyk
7th grade, Gratton Elementary School
Teacher: Rexann Jensen
Illustrated by Valley High School, Sacramento
"The most interesting thing (I learned) is California agriculture is very diverse; it is amazing how many crops California grows."
Unsure of his role, Keary the cat asks various animals around the farm what they do. After learning that he cannot provide milk, lay eggs or herd cattle, he rests in the barn. Keary hears squeaking and chases a mouse through the barn. He looks outside at a lettuce field full of gophers and realizes that catching rodents is his job.
The Raindrop's Great Courage
By Grace Reyes
8th grade, St. Anthony School
Teacher: William Mitchell
Illustrated by Sheldon High School, Sacramento
"California has been in a drought for quite some time and I thought, well maybe I can write about a little raindrop."
A young raindrop waiting in the cloud questions why it has to fall down to Earth to water the crops. The raindrop soon learns a lack of rain results in drought, which leads to crop failure and other problems. Raindrop realizes it has an important role in sustaining the environment and finds courage to rain down on the crops.