By KATHY SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — This year St. Anne School in Sumter implemented a mandatory service project for each grade, and the fifth-grade students chose to plant trees as part of their service work. When fifth-grade teacher Lilly Plowden heard about the S.C. State Arbor Day poster contest, she had her class enter the competition because it correlated well with their other tree-related activities. No one suspected classmate, Gabriela Law, would be the winner of the contest.
As the first place winner, Gabriela received a $200 savings bond, $50 in cash, the book Audubon Trees of the Eastern Region, a backpack filled with goodies, $100 certificate to purchase trees for their school, and Law’s teacher was given the lesson plan titled, “Trees are Beautiful.”
The S.C. Urban Forestry Commission sponsored the contest, which was open to all fifth-graders in South Carolina. Law’s beautiful landscape of pine trees won over 700 other entries representing more than 25 schools throughout the state. Her picture will go further to compete in a national contest in Nebraska. The winners in the national contest will be announced in April 2001.
“We are so proud of Gabriela and her accomplishment. I am glad that she could represent our school in the state and national competitions,” said Annette Doyle, administrative assistant for St. Anne School.
The top winners and their classmates were invited to a special reception at the State Museum in Columbia on Dec. 1. After the awards ceremony, the students gathered outside to plant a few trees on the museum grounds. The first-, second-, and third-place winners had the honor of planting the first sycamore tree. During the planting, a representative from the commission gave some free advice on the proper way to plant and care for a young tree. All participants were given a small sycamore sapling to plant at home.
“One of our parents works for the Forestry Commission and told us about the poster contest,” said Plowden, who took advantage of the opportunity to compete.
Through donations from local businesses in Sumter, the fifth-grade class has already planned to plant more than 50 trees, pine seedlings, and 30 flowering fruit trees. With the additional $100 certificate they can expand their planting efforts.
According to Law, she gained her inspiration for her poster of pines from her home in Pinewood. “I live around a lot of pines,” she said with a smile.
Her family was present during the award ceremony, and her father, Philip, actually saw the poster for the first time at the museum. “It was a complete surprise, but after seeing her picture I can see why she won,” said the proud father.
When asked about her class service project, Law answered, “Planting trees adds life to our world and allows us to take care of God’s creations. I hope that my poster inspires people to make the earth look as beautiful as what I tried to draw.”