TurfMutt Foundation announces winners for ‘The (Really) Great Outdoors’ contest

By edited by Sarah Bunyea

Cash prizes were awarded to middle school students, teachers and schools.

After reviewing more than 2,300 contest submissions this spring, the TurfMutt Foundation and Scholastic announced the winners of TurfMutt’s national “The (Really) Great Outdoors” contest, which was launched early in winter 2020. Rylee Tittle, an eighth-grade student at Christ the King Lutheran School in Memphis, Tennessee, won the $2,500 grand prize for her essay and artwork envisioning a park focused on her community.

Rylee’s visualized themed garden includes four distinct areas for various activities, including specially designated areas for children, pets, photography and art, contemplation and exercise. Tittle’s teacher, Kara Harbin, and the school will each receive a $750 cash prize.

“The middle schoolers came up with designs for green spaces that are both purposeful and beautiful,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation. “Green space is taking on more importance for many of us — as we socially distance and de-stress outside during the pandemic. And it was great to see how many kids value the outdoors and what being in it means.”

Waverly Adams Parrish, a sixth grader at Riverside School in Richmond, Virginia, won the first place prize of $2,000. Parrish designed and illustrated a creativity nature park for teens and tweens laid out in the shape of a tree trunk with branches. Parrish’s teacher, Christy Lantz, and the school will each receive a $500 cash prize.

The second and third prize winners are both from Sycamore Canyon Middle School in Newbury Park, California. An essay by seventh grader Abigail Pace won second place. Her design featured an outdoor park with carefully curated plants for California’s environment, including those to help combat wildfires. She will receive a $1,500 cash prize, and her teacher, Kimberly Garcia, will receive a $250 cash prize.

Kaden Korver, an eighth grader, won third place with his essay describing a “true pure nature” park, where visitors would set aside their electronics so they could appreciate nature more fully. Korver will receive a prize of $750. His teacher, Sonia Corlew, and the school will each receive a cash prize of $125.

“A cornerstone of TurfMutt’s educational program is getting kids to understand that our lawns and green spaces are urban habitats,” says Kiser. “These spaces are critical to wildlife, pollinators and the health and well-being of people and communities. Family yards, school yards and parks are part of a vast ecosystem that supports all of us. We mean it when we say nature starts at your back door.”

The annual contest is part of the TurfMutt environmental stewardship and education program, which teaches students in grades K–8 to care for our living landscapes and appreciate their benefits.

Contest entrants in grades 6 to 8 were asked to design by writing about and drawing a nature space that works for their lifestyle and community no matter where they live — city, country, suburb, house or apartment. The contest was sponsored by Scholastic Inc., the global children’s publishing, education and media company.