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MONTESSORI PUPILS SWEEP MANGROVE ART CONTEST

June 25, 2001 – Three V.I. Montessori School pupils — Kai Bartlette, Carissa Driscoll and Arianna Isolani — took the first, second and third prizes, respectively, in this month's Mangrove Action Project Art Contest at the Coral World Marine Park.
Three other Montessori students — John Carpenter, Tamara Rachid and Olin Davis — were named first, second and third runners-up.
The contest was part of a wider competition for students 5 to 13 years old, held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Mangrove Action Project, an international effort to preserve and protect the world's mangrove systems . Young artists throughout tropical and subtropical areas of the world were asked to depict "why mangroves are important to me and my community."
Most of the youngsters who entered the local contest were 7 or 8 years of age, Coral World curator Donna Nemeth, who was one of the judges, said. Their entries included watercolor, pastel, pen-and-ink and collage works.
The winners received certificates, and all six of their works have been sent to the U.S. office of the Mangrove Action Project for the international judging. There, judges will decide which pieces to include in a 2002 calendar that will be distributed internationally to raise awareness of mangrove forest ecology.
Coral World and the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department co-sponsored the event. Judging was on June 2, and all of the entries were exhibited the weekend of June 2-3 on the Blue Water Terrace at Coral World.
"The entries were very well done and exhibited the creative expression we value here at Montessori," Shournagh McWeeney, V.I. Montessori administrator, said. "We are very proud of all the children who worked so hard to prepare for the contest."
Two classes from Montessori and students from the J. Antonio Jarvis and Sts. Peter and Paul Schools entered the competition.
Nemeth first became aware of the competition when she came upon information about it on the Internet. She decided to help organize participation from the Virgin Islands and got Fish and Wildlife to join in the effort.
To meet the requirements for participation by local youngsters in the Mangrove Action Project, Donna Griffin, Fish and Wildlife education specialist, gave presentations on the mangrove ecosystem in classrooms and provided materials for teachers to create a mangrove lesson plan. Meantime, Nemeth arranged for school groups to visit Coral World for free and get an orientation to mangroves by a resident aquarist.
Nemeth says she was surprised by the small number of schools represented in the event. In addition to the outreach she and Griffin made, she said, "a letter was sent to every public and private school on St. Thomas and St. John, addressed to 'Art Teacher.'" But she later learned that many art teachers never received the letters.
The outreach for the event also promoted a separate poetry competition. "We got no entries for that," Nemeth said.
She said it's unlikely the Mangrove Action Project will hold a similar competition next year, as this one was in observance of the group's 10th anniversary. "If they have one, we would certainly take part," she said. However, she added, Coral World may well have something similar again, even without an international connection.
"The artwork was great, and it made a nice temporary exhibit," she said. "We got feedback from parents who wished it could have remained up longer so more people could have seen it."
A decision is expected soon on the artwork to be published in the Mangrove Action Project calendar. "I understand they will select just 12 pieces," Nemeth said, "so there's no guarantee that any one from here will be in it."
But if any of the Virgin Islands youngsters' work is included, she said, Coral World will try to get a good supply of the calendars to sell in its gift shop.

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