PLATTSBURGH - The region is celebrating the quadricentennial of Samuel de Champlain's exploration of the North Country and one local contest is trying to get kids in on the action.
Mountain Lake PBS has developed "Champlain Chronicles," a writing and illustrating contest that focuses on the life of Champlain. According to Jane Owens, director of outreach and education for the public television station, the contest is meant to encourage students to pretend they are reporters in the time of Champlain and write an article that gives an account of an event during that time.
"We decided to do this to encourage creative writing for middle school students as part of one of our outreach activities," Owens said of the contest, which is open to students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. "We already have the Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustrators contest for younger students. This gives older students a chance to express their creativity."
In addition to the 400th anniversary of Champlain's exploration of the region, the contest coincides with the station's creation of a documentary titled "Dead Reckoning: Champlain in America." The documentary is expected to be released this spring, with a viewing at the Conference on New York State History to be held this June at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.
The timing couldn't have been better for a contest such as this, said Owens.
"A lot of schools are already doing curriculum specifically this year for the quadricentennial, so we wanted to do a creative spin on that," said Owens. "This allows students to celebrate local history and learn a little bit more about Champlain and his impact on the area."
However, younger children don't have to be left out of the fun, said Owens. The Reading Rainbow contest allows children in grades kindergarten through third to write and illustrate about any topic they wish, which could include Samuel de Champlain.
"It really can be any story of their choosing," said Owens. "This is a contest which we've had for 15 years and year after year we see quite a bit of participation."
In the Reading Rainbow contest, students are also encouraged to write and illustrate their own stories, though there is a minimum length of 50 words and maximum of 200 words. All students in that contest also receive certificates of recognition, with four stories chosen from each grade level for special recognition. One winning entry from each grade level will be sent on for judging in a national contest, which could result in prizes including a flat panel television and DVD player, digital camera and MP3 player as well as books and DVDs.
Entries for the Champlain Chronicles contest are limited to 250 words or less and should be double-spaced, said Owens. The entries, which will be judged by Mountain Lake PBS, must include one illustration and answer the "who, what, when, where, and how" of the event.
First place winners at each grade level will receive an iPod, and honorable mention winners at each grade level will receive Borders gift certificates. All participants will receive a special certificate of recognition.
Entries for the Champlain Chronicles contest are due by Friday, March 20, and entries for the Reading Rainbow contest are due Friday, March 13. Entry forms and rules for both contests are available on the Mountain Lake PBS Web site, www.mountainlake.org or by calling Owens at 563-9770, ext. 130.