07.20.20 – AMES, Iowa – The Iowa Water Center (IWC) invites students from around the state to participate in the 2020-2021 IWC “Spirit of the Water” Essay Contest. Through this essay contest, we seek to challenge Iowa high school students to take a deep understanding of a snapshot of nature and explore how a single moment in time can inform our understanding of water resources.

Scientific discovery and an emotional connection to the landscape often comes to be by seeing the splendor of nature – as well as the devastation of negative impacts, such as soil erosion or flooding. This year, the contest will consist of participants taking a photo in their neighborhood, a nearby nature area, or another water feature and writing an essay about it. In previous years, this essay contest has been adapted as a written assignment for classrooms in addition to being a scholarship competition program.

High school students in 9-12th grade in Iowa are eligible to participate. The two writing options are the Creative Writing Track and the Research Track.

  • Creative Writing Track: A written work that displays imagination or invention. Written works can be in the form of storytelling with the use of literary themes, character development, and expresses thoughts and emotions related to one of the photos. Creative writing can be fiction or non-fiction.
  • Research Track: An essay written with clarity and organization that synthesizes what is learned from written material and scientific discovery as related to one of the photos. Research essays require a minimum of three resources.

Essay winners will receive a monetary prize, a course scholarship to the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, and recognition at an awards ceremony during the Iowa Water Conference in April 2021.  Winning essays will be published in an online anthology produced by IWC.

Essay prizes include the following:

  • First Place: $500 cash, and one full college course scholarship or 4 credit hours total at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory ($1700 value)
  • Second Place: $300 cash, and a 2-credit hour course scholarship at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory ($900 value)
  • Third Place: $300 cash

The judging panel includes representatives from several aspects of water and natural resource management. This year, judges will include Jon Nania, Deputy Director for Operations, USGS Illinois-Iowa Water Science Center; IWC Director Richard Cruse; and Associate Director Melissa Miller.

Educators in English, creative writing, and the sciences are encouraged to promote this contest to their students. Students will not only have their work recognized, but will also connect to those who impact water resource management in Iowa.

The contest closes on February 24, 2021 5 p.m. Central Time. Submission guidelines and more information can be found at http://www.water.iastate.edu/essaycontest. Questions regarding the contest can be directed to Hanna Bates, Program Coordinator at the IWC (hbates@iastate.edu).

We recognize the positive impact of diversity and welcome applications from all students meeting eligibility guidelines. Persons with documented disabilities are encouraged to contact IWC staff to make timely requests for reasonable accommodations.