The TurfMutt Foundation, Alexandria, Virginia, has announced this year’s The (Really) Great Outdoors Contest, with $10,000 in prizes available for students, teachers and schools. The contest is focused on urging kids to use their imaginations around the many uses and benefits of green space and the outdoors. Open to students in grades six to eight, last year’s contest drew more than 2,700 submissions from middle-school youth.

Created in partnership with Scholastic, New York, New York, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, the contest encourages students to write about or draw a nature space their community could use. Students are also asked to include text to describe the space, discuss what elements are needed and how their space would be used to benefit the community. Each entry can be no more than three pages.

“We mean it when we say nature starts at your back door,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (also in Alexandria). “Introducing kids to the outdoors is good for them and good for all of us. Family yards, school yards and parks are part of a vast ecosystem that supports all of us. The contest helps the next generation envision how people — wherever they may live — can spend time outside.”

Last year’s contest was open to middle schoolers for the first time. “Our winners last year imagined beautiful and, more importantly, functional and purposeful designs for green spaces,” says Kiser.

“We want kids to understand that our lawns and greenspaces are urban habitats,” adds Kiser. “These spaces are critical to wildlife, pollinators, and the health and well-being of communities. They need to picture themselves within those greenspaces — and the contest is a great way for them to do that.”

A total of $10,000 dollars in prizes will be awarded through the contest.

Teachers can download lesson plans and contest entry information from Entries can be accepted online and uploaded by teachers or mailed in by teachers or students alike. Entries are due March 16, 2020. Last year’s winning entries are available online for viewing.