Like mixing paint with water, 11-year-old Lola Lugard combined her knowledge of the natural world with her artistic talent to create a piece of art that won top honors and 15 trees for her school from the state.
The Piney Ridge Elementary School student won first place in the annual fifth grade Arbor Day poster contest sponsored by the Maryland Department of the Environment, which announced the first, second, and third place winners in the state Feb. 21. Lola’s watercolor painting — four colorful trees in shades of pink, orange, and green — spoke to the contest theme of, "Trees are Terrific … in All Four Seasons!”
When Piney Ridge Principal Patricia Reed learned Lola had won, it happened to be lunch time for fifth grade, so she went to the cafeteria to make the announcement.
“The whole cafeteria clapped for her,” Reed said.
“I felt just shocked,” Lola said.
Lola’s teacher, Catherine North, introduced the contest to her class as an optional, take-home assignment. Forty Carroll County students submitted posters: 12 from Piney Ridge, 13 from Mount Airy Elementary, and 15 from Eldersburg Elementary, according to Bryan Shumaker, STEM coordinator for the school district. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.
Posters were first judged at the county level, then the top winners from each jurisdiction were submitted to the statewide competition, according to a DNR news release.
At the Carroll County level, Lola won first, Addison Smith of Eldersburg Elementary placed second, and Gabriel Zajuczkowski of Piney Ridge finished third, Shumaker said.
Lola then won first again when her poster moved on to compete against 23 others from across the state.
In the past, an Eldersburg student won third place in the statewide contest in 2019 and a Carrolltowne Elementary School student was awarded first in 2018, according to Shumaker.
The poster contest was judged by a panel of forestry experts and a special guest judge, Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan, who is an accomplished artist and adjunct professor at Maryland Institute College of Art, the DNR release states.
“Every year I look forward to this annual tradition, which shines light on the artistic talent and environmental passion of young Marylanders across our state,” Hogan is quoted as saying in the release.
Reed said students were especially excited to see Lola’s artwork pictured with the state’s first lady.
“It was just amazing,” Lola said.
At the state level, Angela Webb of Easton, Talbot County won second place and a prize of 10 trees for her school, according to the DNR release. Third place and five trees went to Annelie Kolbe of Hancock, Washington County.
The artwork of the first-, second-, and third-place finishers at the state level will be printed on informational note cards for the urban forestry program, according to Anne Gilbert, coordinator of DNR’s Tree-Mendous program, which hosts the contest. The note cards will be sent to House and Senate representatives on Maryland Arbor Day, April 1, along with a redbud seedling, Gilbert wrote in an email.
Lola’s artwork will be featured in advertising next year’s poster contest and is planned to be used in future newsletters, Facebook posts, and in other ways to promote urban forestry, Gilbert wrote.
Lola completed her poster earlier this month, estimating she spent two days on the piece.
“My teacher told me that we were gonna do a contest about the Arbor Day, and then I wanted to do it because I really wanted to do art,” Lola said.
Of the four trees she painted, Lola said the orange tree depicting autumn is her favorite.
“There’s just so many colors on it,” Lola said.
North described Lola as an artistic pupil, and it’s no surprise Lola’s favorite subject is art, though she enjoys physical education, too.
Where the 15 trees will be planted at Piney Ridge has yet to be determined, but Shumaker said it’s possible they will replace existing trees that are sick. Reed said the new trees may do well on grassy islands in the parking lot, or along a fence by Freedom Avenue.
Students will be invited to give their input, Shumaker said, and the school will pick which trees they want from a list of options. He’s hoping they will plant the trees in a special ceremony this spring.
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Lola thinks the trees should go next to the playground where students spend recess. She hopes to return one day to see how they’ve grown.