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Essays focus on environment

Library's invitation to write about science draws student participation


As in previous years, this year’s Forest Grove Conversations Program included an invitation for local students to participate in an essay contest by submitting 250- to 500-word essays.

Writing prompts included the idea that students could time-travel to 1859, the year Oregon joined the union, and talk with the state’s founders about ways to preserve the natural world; interviewing a local government official about how to most sustainably take care of the community’s trash; and the most pressing contemporary problem science might be able to help us solve.

First-place winners were invited to ready their essays at the March 13 forum, “Blinded by Science: The Politics of Fact in an Election Year,” which drew about 10 people to the Community Auditorium in Forest Grove.

There were three divisions: Elementary, grades 5-6; Middle, grades 7-9; and Senior, grades, 10-12. First-place winners received $100, second-place winners received $50 and honorable mention winners received $25.

The annual forum is sponsored by the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovations at Pacific and the Friends of the Forest Grove Library.

Several students took up the topic of the environment and sustainability, while one youngster wrote about the effects of a diminishing bee population.

Two of the winning essays are presented on this page.

An idea that fell flat in 1859

I step down the first step, then the second, as I descended down the dark hallway. Peering around the scene before me, I notice a door stands ajar. My curiosity gets the better of me and I cautiously walk in. Sitting in the corner is none other than a time-machine. Leaving my class behind on our boring field trip, no one knows where I am and the machine appears to have never been used. The dial is set to 1859. I climb in and hit the large red go button; I swirl and turn for a moment, then feel a hard lurch as the machine collides with the ground.

Upon exiting the time-machine, I first notice I am in a courthouse. There is an assembly of people on the opposite side of the room and they are talking. One person appears to be writing. As I watched, they started blurting out ideas. I was able to see the parchment they wrote on was titled “Bill of Rights.”

I deduce that they must be writing some sort of document. “Oh yes, 1859, of course! That is the year of the founding of Oregon,” I think to myself. I have an idea. They are establishing Oregon. They also have no clue about the environment issues that will come up in the future.

I clear my throat to get their attention. “Excuse me. I’m wondering if you would be willing to hear my idea.”

A silence fills the room. I share my thoughts that the state could give an annual tax to the federal government for environmental support. The main judge seems to be thinking. “Do we have a statement against this?” he says.

One man stands.

“Yes, Mr. Bristow?” the judge asks.

“I am opposed,” Mr. Bristow says. “Oregon is not affected by any environmental problems. We have much more important issues.”

A vote was taken and my idea was not supported. More ideas by the roomful of men are said, so I decide to stay awhile. I figure this is most likely a once in a lifetime opportunity and I want to make the best of it. Quietly, I leave without a glance and as I returned to the time-machine I say “I’m definitely using this again.”

— Caleb VanderGiessen

Elementary division, 3rd prize



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