Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Contests and Competitions

If the ancient proverb is correct and "Competition is the whetstone of talent," then there appears to be much opportunity for honing talent this fall; my mailbox is brimming with announcements for contests and competitions. Whether you're a teacher or a student, an artist, a videographer, a comic strip aficionado, a geek, a patriot, an avid reader or a rabid environmentalist, or even just a member of a perennially needy school community, as long as you possess the spirit of competition, someone, somewhere is sponsoring a competition for you.

Are you an educator who's making a difference technologically? For the 23rd year, Tech & Learning is honoring K-12 administrators, technology coordinators, and teachers who are using technology in innovative ways. Nominate yourself or a colleague for the 2010 Leader of the Year, but do it soon -- the deadline for nominations is October 15.

Perhaps you're a talented new teacher at the beginning of -- or about to begin -- a career teaching high school math or science? If so, you'll want to check out the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation's KSTF Teaching Fellowships. Renewable for up to five years and valued at up to $150,000, the highly competitive fellowships are awarded annually in the areas of the biological sciences, physical sciences, and mathematics. Applicants should have received their most recent content degree within five years of the start of the fellowship. (Those in the final year of their degree program might also be eligible.) The deadline for submitting applications for these fellowships is January 12, 2011.

Not a techie or a newbie? Check out all the Teacher Awards and Competitions at TeachersCount. Among the Art Teacher Awards; Character Education Awards; English and Language Arts Teacher Awards; Foreign Language Teacher Awards; General Teacher Awards; Math, Science, and Technology Teacher Awards; Regional Awards; Social Studies Teacher Awards; and Special Education Awards, you're bound to find something on which to hone your considerable talents.

But what about your students? Whatever grade you teach, there's certain to be a contest or competition to add fun to their days and engagement and motivation to their education. Check out some of these contests (in no particular order):

Scholastic's Lexus Eco Challenge offers middle- and high-school students across the United States the opportunity to make a difference in the environmental health of their community. Student teams, working with a teacher, choose from a list of environmental topics one issue that affects their own community. Teams then develop a plan to address that issue, and submit that plan in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. Three separate challenges, involving three broad environmental topics, will be available this year. The deadline for Challenge 1 (Land and Water) is November 3.

The Being an American Essay Contest, now in its fifth year, is the largest high-school essay contest in the country, attracting more than 50,000 entries and awarding nearly $115,000 in prize money. The contest, administered by the Bill of Rights Institute, asks students to answer the question, "What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?" The contest deadline is December 1.

The MakeBeliefsComix Comic Strip Contest is an ongoing competition that students can enter again and again. Each month, students can submit by email their best comic strip created with MakeBeliefsComix comic strip creator. A selection of the comics will be posted to Make BeliefsComix Facebook Wall and the best of the selection will receive a book on comic strips written by Bill Zimmerman, founder of MakeBeliefsComix. This strikes me as a great opportunity to showcase the talents of those artistically talented students who don't always shine in the academic arena!

The New York Times Show Us Your City Video Contest isn't designed specifically for teachers or students, but what a great way to help students get to know -- and share -- what's special about their own home town! Even if you're not a videographer, Times' experts provide lots of simple tips and examples to help you guide your students to write and create a tour of your community. There's no deadline for this contest. The Times will "keep the submission form open as long as you keep sending videos!"

The Book Jam Digital Book Report Contest is another interactive competition -- and one that gives new meaning to the oh-so-ho-hum term "book report." Students pick a book -- either one of their favorites or one from your curriculum -- and create...well, just about anything but a traditional book report. According to the people at Recorded Books, who are sponsoring the contest, "we'd love to see rap songs about grammar...interactive presentations highlighting setting and symbolism...plays about conflict...and whatever else you and your students dream up." What can you dream up by October 28?

If you're looking for something a little less time-intensive, you might check out the Fall 2010 Shmoop High School Essay Contest. In this "Know Your Poe" themed competition, students are asked to decide whether the narrator in "The Tell-Tale Heart" and/or the speaker in "The Raven" are insane -- and then to defend their verdicts with hard evidence. Appropriately enough, the deadline for this contest is October 31.

Is there a teacher anywhere who has enough classroom technology for every student to participate in every valuable tech activity he or she would like to offer? I doubt it -- but you could be one teacher who does if you're the winner of the Global Classroom Makeover Video Contest. Sponsored by einstruction, the contest invites teacher and students to create a music video showing how they envision using technology to enhance teaching and learning. Three classrooms can win up to $75,000 worth of technology tools. Contest deadline is November 2.

The lure of contests might be the spice of competition, but the sugar of competition is, of course, the reward. One of this fall's biggest rewards is being offered by BING, Microsoft's new search engine. Our School Needs, a user-generated content competition, asks schools to share what they need -- from a gym to a library to a school store -- for the chance to win up to $100,000 toward fulfilling that need. Students write an essay describing what their school needs, take photos showing the need, and maybe even make a video dramatizing it. Then they ask everyone they know to rate their entries. The competition ends October 22.

So...what does your school need?

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