Cambridge’s Canada geese are among more than 1,000 species young artists can use as subjects in their entries to the second Cambridge City Nature Arts Challenge. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The kinds of plants, animals and fungi young artists can use as subjects for the Cambridge City Nature Arts Challenge have more than tripled in the year since the competition’s launch, from the Canada geese of East Cambridge and Harvard Square to the winter fireflies spotted at Fresh Pond.

Kids may choose from more than 1,000 species observed by Cantabrigians and other Greater Boston citizen scientists during a four-day challenge, then curated to include only “research grade” organisms by researchers and community members of iNaturalist.org. Last year the list included only 321 species.

The contest, run by Green Cambridge and Cambridge Local First to engage elementary school students with their local environment, closes Wednesday. It welcomes submissions from 5-year-olds and students attending grades one to six during the 2020-2021 school year.

Students may submit their work in any medium, as long as it is 2D and smaller than 9 inches by 12 inches. Sample mediums include paint of any kind, crayon, regular or colored pencil, pastels, ink, marker, thread or digital art.

For 5-year-olds competing, 10 entries will be drawn at random to win art supplies and books. For entries by students from grades 1-6, the prizes consist of gift cards to local businesses that sell art supplies. The prizes come almost exclusively from Cambridge Local First member businesses, said Theodora Skeadas, the nonprofit’s executive director.

Ranger Tim Puopolo of the Fresh Pond Reservation will judge entries from students in grades one to five. A judge for the sixth-graders’ entries will be chosen by sponsors, organizers said.

“It’s an opportunity to get more connected to the concept of biodiversity, the idea of citizen science and, of course, the plants and animals that occupy the same environment that we do,” said Julie Croston, who coordinates the challenge for Cambridge Wildlife Arts, the arts-based environmental education wing of Green Cambridge.

Teachers, parents and guardians, and anyone who works with children “can use the challenge as an opportunity to talk about the environment with kids, whether on a large scale or ‘bug-level,’ according to what interests a particular child,” Croston said.

The submission portal and details are at greencambridge.org/artchallenge-21.


This post took significant amounts of material from a press release.

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