Stories of STEM Writing Contest
Sponsored by the Verizon Foundation
Students in grades 3–12 from Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Bucks County, Philadelphia County, Salem County, Gloucester County, Camden County, and New Castle County are invited to write and submit an original story that connects to our contest theme, honoring of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. The program is open to students of all genders but focuses on the inclusion of girls who have an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Writing Challenge
Your task is to write an original story in any writing style (science fiction, mystery, letter to the editor, adventure, superhero, award nomination, how-to, biography, etc.) highlighting or addressing the Earth. Here are some writing prompts to get you started, but you are not required to stick with any of these. You are encouraged to be creative and detailed in your storytelling! We are particularly looking for stories with a positive spin that highlight success and promise instead of doom and gloom.
- “Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” In Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, the Lorax speaks for the trees. How would you speak for the trees?
- Imagine you are 100 years in the future. What does the earth look like? What has changed for the better? Have new technologies been invented to improve something?
- Write a persuasive letter to Congress advocating for something that you feel would make a positive impact on the environment.
- Write a story where a part of the earth (for example, a tree, a mountain, the ocean, etc.) is the main character. What would they have to say? What would they want us to know?
- Write a story or "how to" article teaching people everyday things they can do to help the environment.
- Write a story about the most beautiful place in nature you have visited. What made it beautiful and what can be done to keep it preserved?
Submissions will be organized into three categories, based upon the grade level you are enrolled in the 2019–2020 school year.
- Elementary school (grades 3-5): Essays should be about 300 words
- Middle school (grades 6-8): Essays should be about 900 words
- High school (grades 9-12): Essays should be about 1,200 words
All submissions must be original work, and resources must be clearly cited. For more information about the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, please explore our Penn State Library LibGuide to give you ideas to get started.
November 1, 2019 – Contest opens on the Penn State Brandywine STEM Options website.
March 1, 2020 – Submission deadline for contest, at 12:00 p.m. The student story plus a signed parent/guardian permission slip must be uploaded online.
April 1, 2020 – Contest award winners will be announced.
April 16, 2020 – Writing contest awards ceremony, plus campus laboratory tours and interactions with undergraduate student STEM researchers. Keynote speaker will present during a light dinner. This event will take place at Penn State Brandywine in Media, PA from 6 to 8 p.m.
Submissions were judged by faculty, staff and student volunteers from the Penn State Brandywine community. The following criteria was used during the evaluation of the entries:
|4 points||3 points||2 points||1 point|
|Originality||Original approach, original voice, thought-provoking.||Clear approach, though not developed fully.||Writing is common and is only partly original, partially engaging.||Writing feels like retelling, unclear, feels like this has been written before.|
|Creative Expression||Writing is expressive, engages and connects with the reader.||Writing somewhat connects language and the reader, not as expressive, or too expressive which makes the story difficult to follow.||Writing attempts to engage and connect with the reader, not as successful.||Writing lacks creative connection to the reader.|
|Storytelling||Writing is organized, a clear start to finish.||Generally organized, but presented in an uninteresting way.||Awkward transitions, missing logic and order.||Hard to follow the story due to poor organization.|
|Use of science terms/grammar||Writing demonstrates a correct use of scientific terms and grammar. No spelling errors.||Some misunderstandings of scientific terms, some spelling/grammatical errors.||Unclear use of science terms, simple sentences, evident spelling/grammatical errors.||Writing difficult to understand due to improper use of terms. Several spelling/grammatical errors.|
|Connection to contest theme/strength of science content||Strong and clear connection to IYPT, one element and clear connection to solution of a global challenge.||Connection to theme is present but not strong, not enough science information to respond to writing prompt.||Components missing, lack of clarity in addressing the theme and/or errors in science content.||Writing does not match contest theme, does not address required components.|
Winners in each grade category will receive the following prizes:
- First place winners – $250 plus an age-appropriate women in STEM book
- Second place winners – $150 plus an age-appropriate women in STEM book
- Third place winners – $100 plus an age-appropriate women in STEM book
All winning entries will be published on the Penn State Brandywine STEM Options website.