December 5, 2004
Environmental Studies Internship
The Blue Mountain Land Trust is a private, non-profit organization which strives to conserve property and natural resources in southeast Washington and northeast Oregon . BMLT works with local community members who wish to permanently protect their land from development. This includes not only the protection of beautiful, natural land, but also agricultural land in the area. Land is either donated or sold to BMLT, or more often is transferred to the organization as a conservation easement. This transaction not only allows BMLT to then protect the land forever, but many times also provides tax breaks for the landowners.
This semester I have been working with Beth Thiel, the executive director of Blue Mountain Land Trust, organizing a contest among the local schools. Although original plans were to have an essay contest, Beth eventually wanted to expand the contest to also include poetry and photography. The contest topic was “open memory spaces,” or natural spaces which evoke specific memories from childhood, and was based on Barbara Kingsolver's essay entitled “The Memory Place.” At the beginning of the semester Beth Thiel and her fellow BMLT organizers did not have an actual plan of attack for the contest. Together Beth and I built the project from scratch, which was not a quick or easy task. We had to figure out the medium of entries, the age bracket we wanted to target, and prize ideas. As for judges, Beth decided the board members of BMLT could figure out the contest winners.
Beth first contacted Jeff Weeks, the principle of Payne Middle School , figuring the slight alternative bend in the curriculum might make it easier for us to infiltrate the school and possibly recruit help from teachers. After discussing the contest with Jeff we decided to expand it to include a category for photographs. We also decided on the specific contest categories. The essay and poetry categories were 9 th -10 th grade and 11 th -12 th grade, and the photo portion was open to all grades. Beth and I felt that targeting older students might result in higher quality entries but decided to continue working with Payne anyway. Any middle school entries would be combined with the 9 th -10 th grade categories.
As for publicity, Beth was hard set on going into classrooms and talking directly with the students, which made the process very difficult. Although I thought it was a good idea, my schedule and lack of transportation did not easily allow me to go out to the schools. I also believe trying to fit the contest into an already tight curriculum at the high school was one of the biggest problems we faced. Even though I sent out multiple emails to English teachers, only one teacher responded with an interest in the contest. I think the process of getting the word out to the students would have been made much simpler if we had gone through the head office of the school district and asked for a flier to be distributed among all the students. This way any student with the time and desire to participate in the contest would have known about it, regardless of whether or not they were currently taking any English or photography classes. It also would have been a good way to get around teachers and not interfere with their set curriculum schedule.
While Beth was trying to organize the contest in area high schools, I was busy gathering donations for the prize winners. We were basically trying to do the entire project for free so I was willing to take anything, big or small. In the end, I collected enough donations for the first and second place winners in all five categories to receive prizes. The local businesses who gave us prizes were: Kit's Cameras, Tallman's Camera Shop, Pete's Sports, The Bicycle Barn, Coffee Connection Café, the Juice and Bagel Bar, and Harper Jo y Theatre , and The Book & Game Co. The second place essay winners will receive a smaller prize and the first place winners will receive both a donated prize as well as have their essay or poetry published in the Union Bulletin. First prize winners will also be able to participate in a public reading of their entries at The Book & Game Co. thanks to Janis King, the store's new manager. It took me multiple phone calls to verify the Union Bulletin is willing to publish the contest entries, but it was well worth it. The essays and poetry will be published in the Perspectives section, and the best part is that the whole thing will be free!
For me, the hardest part of the project was getting prize donations. While a few patrons were very willing to donate up front, mainly because I happened to be a Whitman student, most wanted more information concerning the BMLT organization. Because it is a fairly little known organization many people in the area have never heard of it or know its purpose. At first it was even difficult for me to grasp what the organization actually does and it was often hard to explain this to business managers and owners in the middle of a busy store or restaurant. Luckily, however, after viewing reading material, a couple store managers wanted to donate prize materials. I believe many people who are being introduced to the land trust organization realize the importance of preserving undeveloped land for future generations, especially in an area where there is a lot of undeveloped land, and this helped in gathering donations.
At the moment I only have two more weeks at school and Beth has decided to push the deadline back in order to get more participation at the high school. I have written up a contact list and will be dropping off the prizes and information with Beth so she can continue working on the project. I believe the contest has a lot of potential to be really popular in the area, especially if it becomes an annual event. I think the biggest mistake Beth and I made was in making the contest too large. Had we kept it to only one medium, photography for instance, and just one school, the entire process would probably have been easier and more successful. If done every year, however, the contest could eventually become popular enough to expand to other high schools in the surrounding area, instead of just sticking to Walla Walla . In order to hopefully help jump-start the process in future years, I have attached the contact list and flier sent to the students. Also, if a student were to continue the internship next semester, the biggest project would be continuing to notify students of the contest. There are also a couple smaller tasks that still need to be completed. Publicity advertisements should be run in the Union Bulletin before the actual essays are published and drop off boxes for the entries need to be constructed and placed at the schools. In reality, this contest is only at the very beginning of what it could become. It is only at the beginning of what could be a yearly event where students and community members alike come together to celebrate memory spaces, childhood wonder, and the preservation of local and important land.
The Memory Space
Essay, Poetry, & Photo Contest!!!
Blue Mountain Land Trust
Winners will receive PRIZES from Pete's Sports, Kit's Cameras, the Coffee Connection Café, Harper Joy Theatre , and more!!!
First place will be published in the Union Bulletin December 19 th !
Essay: 9-10 th grade Poetry: 9-10 th grade
11-12 th grade 11-12 th grade
Photography: all grades
All entries must be in by December 10 th .
Two photographs & 1000 word limit per essay/poetry entry
Please drop off at entry box in your school
Include name, school, grade, and home phone number.
What's an Open Memory Space you ask?
Author Barbara Kingsolver's essay “The Memory Space” is a great example, depicting childhood memories of the forests of Kentucky .
This is the kind of April morning no other month can touch: a world tinted in watercolor pastels of redbud, dogtooth violet, and gentle rain. The trees are beginning to shrug off winter; the dark, leggy maple woods are shot through with gleaming constellations of white dogwood blossoms. The road winds through deep forest near Cumberland Falls , Kentucky , carrying us across the Cumberland Plateau toward Horse Lick Creek. Camille is quiet beside me in the front seat, until at last she sighs and says, with a child's poetic logic, “This reminds me of the place I always like to think about.”
Me too, I tell her. It's the exact truth. I grew up roaming wooded hollows like these, though they were more hemmed-in, keeping their secrets between the wide-open cattle pastures and tobacco fields of Nicholas County, Kentucky. My brother and sister and I would hoist cane fishing poles over our shoulders, as if we intended to make ourselves useful, and head out to spend a Saturday doing nothing of the kind. We haunted places we called the Crawdad Creek, the Downy Woods (for the downy woodpeckers and also for milkweed fluff), and—thrillingly, because we'd once found big bones there—Dead Horse Draw. We caught crawfish with nothing but patience and our hands, boiled them with wild onions over a campfire, and ate them and declared them the best food on earth. We collected banana-scented pawpaw fruits, and were tempted by fleshy, fawn-colored mushrooms but left those alone. We watched birds whose names we didn't know build nests in trees whose names we generally did. We witnessed the unfurling of hickory and oak and maple leaves in the springtime, so tender as to appear nearly edible; we collected them and pressed them with a hot iron under waxed paper when they blushed and dropped in the fall. Then we waited again for spring, even more impatiently than we waited for Christmas, because its gifts were more abundant, needed no batteries, and somehow seemed more exclusively ours . I can't imagine that any discovery I ever make, in the rest of my life, will give me the same electric thrill I felt when I first found little righteous Jack in his crimson-curtained pulpit poking up from the base of a rotted log.
The adventures of my childhood: tame, I guess, by the standards established by Mowgli the Jungle Boy or even Laura Ingalls Wilder. Nevertheless, it was the experience of nature, with its powerful lessons in static change and predictable surprise. Much of what I know about life, and almost everything I believe about the way I want to live, was formed in those woods. In times of acute worry or insomnia or physical pain, when I close my eyes and bring to mind the place I always like to think about, it looks like the woods in Kentucky .
Kingsolver, Barbara. “The Memory Place .” High Tide in Tucson : Essays From Now or Never . London : Faber & Faber Limited. 1995.
Blue Mountain Land Trust
Essay/Poetry/Photo Contest Contact Information
Janis King: Book & Game Manager
-wants to have a public reading for the contest winners at the store
-call with information about deadline to set up a time for the reading
Renee Reep: Tallman's Camera Shop Manager
Cheryl Wagaman: Harper Joy Theatre Administrative Assistant
-Box office: 527-5180
Rick Doyle: Union Bulletin Editor
Jay Brodt: UB Advertising Director
-Jay's the one to talk to about getting the essays and poetry published. He said to just email him the entries before we want them published and he'll take care of the rest.
Email List for High School Teachers:
David Meyer: email@example.com
Mindy Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Casey Monahan: email@example.com
Karen Peddicord: firstname.lastname@example.org
Carina Stillman: email@example.com
Brian Senter: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Schumaker: email@example.com
Linda Woodard: firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Willcuts: email@example.com
Julie Johnson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Cassetto: email@example.com
Kevin Peck: firstname.lastname@example.org