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 Week of Nature 2014: 15 Students Win Scholarships for Camp

A group of 15 fourth- and fifth-graders who will be attending Camp Cuyamaca next year received scholarships March 20 because of their creative and well-written essays about positive experience they've had outdoors.

The 15 winning essays were selected from nearly 3,000 that were written as part of the VanArsdale Essay Contest. The scholarships are paid for with money endowed by the late William E. VanArsdale, past director of SDCOE's Outdoor Education program.

To celebrate nature, outdoor education and these creative students, we're going to feature three of their essays each day this week. Here are the first three:

Annabelle Mercer
Reynolds Elementary School
Oceanside Unified School District

It was a sunny, Saturday morning and my family and I were eating breakfast.  The food was irresistible, it was pancakes with syrup, eggs with ketchup, and French bread with syrup.  My mother then said, "Kids hurry with your food we have to go soon."  Where?" I replied.  "Camping" she said back.

As soon as she said that my brother and I ran quickly up the white stairs and got ready as fast as we could.

Then we ran back down the white carpeted stairs and yelled at the same time, "We're ready!"

My family jumped in the car and my father began to drive.

The car ride took forever, the food in the back made a lot of noise and my brother couldn't stop complaining.  The only reason I survived is because in my mind I kept telling myself it would all be worth it when I'm under the stars with all the trees and rivers.

Out of nowhere we arrived.  I looked out the glass window of the car and beauty overwhelmed me.  We were in a grassy area with amazing trees, a river, pathways, birds, and giant hills.

After we unpacked I went to swim in the river.  I saw kids sliding down this rock like it was a waterslide.  I went on it about five times and it was dusk.

The next morning I was climbing this huge tree.  All of the branches were slanted downward, flowers hung from them and it wasn't very difficult.

A few hours later my mom announced it was time to leave.  I was very sad because I love nature.  It makes me feel loved.  It's amazing.

I really want to go to 5th grade camp because this would help me with my survival skills, creative skills, and it will give me the greatest experience of my life.  Nature is life, nature is me, and I would love to go to 5th grade camp.


Mya Diggs
Foussat Elementary School
Oceanside Unified School District

My favorite time outdoors was when I took a field trip with my 2nd grade class to Torrey Pines.  My friend, Phoenix and I were buddies and we saw lots of birds and rabbits.  What was really cool is that we saw a tin plate of paint and white footprints down the trail.  I think they were bobcat prints.  We then hiked up the trail and found a bunny eating grass.  He was brown with white spots.  Then, we saw two pairs of ears and two baby bunnies popped out from behind the brown one and started to eat.  "Aww!" Phoenix and I said.  We quickly took a picture and moved on.  We met up with the others and ate lunch.  Then, we walked back to the bus and sat down.  "That was so fun!" I said.  And we both knew it was true.  This event was special to me because I got to spend time with my friend outdoors and learned about animals and had a lot of fun.  I really, really wish to go to 5th grade camp because I love nature and learning new things, and this could be a great opportunity for me to be with my friends and learn about the wild and its way of life.  Thank you so much for giving me this chance.


Emma House
Arroyo Vista Charter
Chula Vista Elementary School District

Simply the drive to Yosemite had me complaining.  I couldn't imagine wasting another FULL day walking up some stinking mountains or staring at a boring waterfall.  "Wow, I've ruined my life already."  I muttered under my breath.  Apparently my mom heard me so she lectured "Come on Emma! Don't talk like that I'm tired of hearing you complain so stop saying negative things to everyone or so help me I will stop this car right now and turn around."

"Better than going up stupid hills of rock."  I said flatly.

"Don't interrupt, I wasn't finished.  You will also stay in the car the rest of the day at Yosemite to mull over how much fun you would've had, had you chosen to come with us.  Now stop!"

The rest of the drive, I stayed quiet but nothing kept me from thinking nasty thoughts.

"Staying in the car would stop me from having to climb a hill.  Stinking rocks!"

When we pulled into the parking lot, I told mom that I was going to stay in the car like she said I could.

"I'm altering the deal," she said, pulling me out of the car.


"Don't complain!"  She whispered venomously, cutting me off.  Her tone was murderous.  I reluctantly obeyed and remained silent.

"Don't worry, you'll like it!"  My dad said encouragingly.  "I don't see your siblings complaining."

As he promised, my younger sister, Sarah (9), my older sister, Elizabeth (12), my older brother, Josh (14) and my oldest sister, Rebekah (16) were not complaining.  In fact, they seemed to be having a dandy time.  I had to admit, after we walked across a bridge over a roaring river where a HUGE waterfall met with the earth's surface, a forest at the base of the mountain, and as we started scaling the face of the mountain itself, I started to heed my father's words and I started not only liking, but LOVING this outdoor family trip.  We climbed up and up but I never noticed my aching feet because I was too busy admiring beautiful nature.  By the time we started down, I was skipping down with a huge grin on my face.

"I LOVE nature!"  I shouted.  "And I don't care who knows it."  I added.

When we reached the car, I noticed something I didn't notice before.  From this vantage point I could see a gleaming waterfall so beautiful and pure that I found myself gaping at its perfection.  A gleaming rainbow flashed making me blink.  What a beautiful sight.  My mom raised her eyebrows and asked as we were all clambering into the car, "What got into you?  Just a few hours ago you were begging me to stay in the car."

"I guess I just didn't realize how pure and gorgeous nature is," I replied getting in the car.

Then we rode off into the beautiful sunset.

Good ol' nature.

This experience taught me to appreciate the beauty in nature.  The reason I want to go so bad to the sixth grade outdoor education program is because I want to see and appreciate more nature.  How can you deny an adventurous child the gift of nature?  I will take no more of your time.

Thank you.