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Species On The Edge - Testimonials

Testimonials from educators about the Species on the Edge Contest. Submit your own testimonial.


As the district's 'Gifted and Talented' Coordinator, I am always looking for ways to involve my students in unique and challenging activities. The Species on the Edge – Art and Essay Contest was both exciting and very educational for my fifth grade students. We had just begun a Science unit on animals when your brochure arrived about the contest. The children were instantly intrigued asking questions such as "We have endangered animals in New Jersey?"

We quickly got to work researching various animals that make their home in NJ. The students loved the fact that they could choose the animal species that they were interested in and that they could work on the project both at home and school. Some students were challenged by the "art" component of the contest, but were relieved to learn that they could use any artistic medium to create a representation of their chosen animal. Many of my students enjoyed creating their 3-dimensional works of art.

I have amended the Science curriculum this year to include endangered animals and have already peaked my new students' interests. We look forward to receiving the information about 2006 Species on the Edge – Art and Essay Contest!

- Beth Brislin, Maywood Avenue School, Maywood, Bergen County


My fifth grade science students complete a lengthy unit on Environmental Science, and the Species on the Edge – Art and Essay Contest was a perfect real world experience for them to put into action the concepts and terms we studied. To incorporate the contest into my lessons, I worked with our school's media specialist to teach the students research skills. Each student first chose and researched an animal that was of interest. After researching we learned tips for persuasive writing and drafted essays according to the contest's guidelines. This was a way I linked language skills to the content of science. The students worked with partners or small groups to edit and revise their work. Each one evaluated himself according to a rubric of expectations and then made final editing changes.

I was very pleased with the knowledge my students gained about the specific animal they reported on as well as the things they learned from each other. I was also happy to learn that many of them had deep concerns about the future of these species and understood the important function that the species played in the whole system. It was an excellent opportunity for them to understand the interconnections between biotic and abiotic factors in the environment.

The students enjoyed the process, and having a contest with interesting parameters made it more engaging than just the typical animal report would have been.

I am also pleased that one of my students won the contest for Burlington County. The joy of seeing her pride in accomplishment, and the praise she has received here at school and in the community, made all the work worthwhile!

The Species on the Edge – Art and Essay Contest helped me to make the learning experience more enjoyable and connected the classroom with the real world. It has helped raise the awareness of my students and their families, and has given us another way to showcase the excellence we strive for each day.

- Rhonda K. Cutts, Tabernacle Township Schools, Burlington County


My students love the Species on the Edge – Art and Essay Contest because they enjoy learning about the many endangered animals in New Jersey, which fits right into our curriculum. The contest helps raise their awareness about how humans interact with the natural world. My students take ownership of one species, and through artwork and research, they express their concerns about the environment and how to protect it. The awards ceremony is very educational and quite an honor for my students, who are tomorrow’s leaders.

- Mary Keyser, Maple Road School, West Milford, Passaic County


My fifth grade class has participated in Species on the Edge – Art and Essay Contest for the last three years. This contest has brought invaluable experiences to my students. As an educator, I strongly believe that students become much more motivated to use the skills they have been taught when there is a real purpose at the end. The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ website ( and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife website ( makes it very easy for the students and teachers to access information about endangered wildlife in New Jersey. On the website, students can find all the information they need to research the animal’s habitat and the reasons why the animal may be endangered. The picture of the animal also gives students a model of the animal and helps them with their drawings. After choosing the animal that they will research and preparing their note cards, the students write their drafts in class. The art teacher in our school works collaboratively with me and has my students work on their drawings during art class. In the art room, students use all research to create a cohesive artwork, reflecting not only what is on the pictures, but the information that they have researched as well. Students need to introduce elements into their posters that are not necessarily in the photos such as Where does this animal live, what does it eat, what are the animal’s habits, and from what is it endangered. All of this information can be added to make the artwork more interesting, as well as much more informative. The entire process takes about 3 weeks, however, the students are actively engaged in researching and writing an essay on a topic that highly motivates them. The fact that it is a contest and that they may win, is an added incentive. Having been lucky enough to have had 3 students chosen as winners over the last three years, we have also attended the awards ceremony. This is a wonderful day for both student winners and their teachers. I strongly recommend that all fifth grade teachers become involved in this motivating and valuable contest.

- Tina Adamitis and Dana Wooley, Land O’ Pines School, Howell, Monmouth County


Our class thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Species on the Edge – Art and Essay Contest. Each student enjoyed gathering the information from your website and the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife website. They shared the information with their
parents and peers. We also constructed a bulletin board for our adopted peregrine
falcon. We were ecstatic to have a winner from our class. All in all, we were
enlightened and my students were winners for the knowledge they had gained!

- Mrs. Doretha Webb - 5th grade, Lawnside Public School, Lawnside, Camden County


The Species on the Edge - Art and Essay Contest has become an annual writing and art project for every West Amwell Township fifth grade student. It is a natural fit for inclusion into our 5th grade curriculum. Indeed the love for animals evokes protective responses from any 10 year old. But our students have a deep appreciation for wildlife, living in beautiful Hunterdon County with close access to the Delaware River.

The lessons begin with speculating about what made the previous winners successful in their art and essay writing. West Amwell Elementary students are keen observers and critics. Students search the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ website and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s website to choose their endangered animal. Then the research begins for facts about their animal and a New Jersey fact to incorporate into their essay. Language class becomes a forum for brainstorming a strong opening to their essays, utilizing suggested writing forms, and writing a satisfying conclusion. The art work of every student is "frame worthy." Students take intense care in laying out their poster, creating their art, and choosing color to bring their artwork to life.

The excitement exploded when a fellow classmate was chosen as the Hunterdon County winner for 2005 and a second classmate was chosen as the county runner-up. Their voices will add to the appeal of the contest for future fifth graders at West Amwell School.

- Howard Martin Jeavons, West Amwell Township School, West Amwell, Hunterdon County


The Species on the Edge contest was an excellent way for us to integrate many core curriculum content standards into a single focus. Although the project was simple enough for one teacher, we set it up as a collaboration between the homeroom teacher, and the art, technology, and schoolwide enrichment teachers. The students enjoyed researching and writing about the endangered animals that they had chosen during art class. Best of all, everyone learned more about endangered and threatened animals of New Jersey.

- Sandy Sandmeyer-Bryan, Capy May City Elementary School, Cape May, Cape May County

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