Relaxing At Home Essay Contest

To celebrate National Forest Products Week (October 15-21, 2017) the Idaho Forest Products Commission sponsors a statewide essay contest. Encourage your students to enter the contest to learn more about Idaho's forests, build vocabulary and work toward mastering Idaho Core Standards.
Cash prizes for the winning writers and their classrooms!

Who may enter?

All K-12 students in Idaho are eligible for the contest.

What are the requirements?

° Scroll down for the Background Statement, Writing Prompts and Scoring Criteria.

° Each essay must include the student name, teacher name, email, grade, school name and town.

° Teachers: Submit only the top five essays per class. If you send more than five per class, the judges are unable to review your essays. Please include a list of all students who complete an essay, so we may provide a Certificate of Participation for every student. Teachers with multiple sections of a class may send the top five essays per class section.

What are the prizes?

Each winning essayist receives a certificate and a cash prize (K-2 $25; 3rd-5th $50; 6th-8th $75; 9th-12th $100). Their classroom receives $100, and their teacher receives a voucher to attend a Project Learning Tree workshop, plus posters and other resources. There is a string attached: The winning essayist must help decide how the class spends its cash award! Honorable mentions are named at each level. Every student receives a Certificate of Participation.

When are the essays due?

Essay submissions must be emailed or postmarked by 11/2/17.

Where should the essays be sent?

Send your essays (top five per class) to:

Via EmailVia Mail
Send to:
In SUBJECT, include:
Essay Contest, Teacher Name, Grade
350 N. 9th Street, #102
Boise, ID 83702

What if I have questions?

Visit, email or call 208-334-4061.

Idaho Core Standards. Encourage students to access different types of informational texts and use evidence to support their reasoning. Researching and writing this essay provides an opportunity to work on vocabulary, syntax, and development and organization of ideas. Students may access links to a variety of informational texts at


Forests and trees provide many things—clean air and water; beautiful places to play and relax; homes for birds, fish and other wildlife; carbon storage; energy savings and numerous products for people. One of the best things about trees is that they are a renewable resource. When trees are harvested, new ones grow or can be planted. With sustainable forestry practices, our forests can continue to provide their many benefits for generations to come.


Think about your daily life. Write an essay to a general audience sharing how tree and forest products touch your life, and why they are important to you. You may choose to consider one forest product, or a variety of products. (K-2nd graders may use any media for their "essay.")

WRITING PROMPT for Grades 6-12

Consider the merits of using wood versus other building materials. Write an essay to a general audience sharing your ideas, supported by your research, about whether using wood for building is a good choice environmentally and economically or not

Grade levels and essay length guidelines
9th-12th graders: Up to 500 words6th-8th graders: Up to 350 words
3rd-5th graders: Up to 250 wordsK-2nd graders: May use any media

Scoring CriteriaSubcategoriesMaximum points
Content accuracy
(35 points total)
Clearly relates to the topic.10
Is accurate and logical.15
Provides supporting details and/or examples.
If applicable, sources are cited.
Clear writing including grammar, spelling and punctuation.
(30 points total)
Grammar, spelling and punctuation is correct.15
Information is organized, neatly typed or written and has well constructed paragraphs.15
(25 points total)
Shows individual thinking skills.25
Overall likeability
(10 points)
Reader was engaged by the writing and wanted to continue reading the essay.10
(100 points)

Printer friendly contest rules

For almost 10 years, June and John Strothenke have been living on their small farm in Interior Alaska, raising goats, rabbits, chickens and cows. But now, it's time for a change.

A few months ago, the couple came to a sudden decision that, between health and job stresses, they needed to move on.

"Maybe it's time for us to spend a little more time with the family … and a little less on the farm," John Strothenke said.

So they're putting their home on the market, but with a twist. There will be no Realtor. Only an essay and a $1,000 entry fee. Write the winning essay, and the farm is yours.

It was June's idea, her husband said. Look around online, and you'll find stories of other properties put on the market via essay contest, she said. She didn't want to go the traditional route, with all the red tape of a typical sale. This seemed like a good option.

Now, anybody interested in the farm has a shot, if they can pay the fee and answer a simple prompt: "Why I would like to own a hobby farm in Fairbanks, Alaska."

The couple says they've put a lot of work into the 5-acre property off Chena Hot Springs Road, northwest of the center of Fairbanks. They just put in new windows. John Strothenke said he'll continue renovating the house as though they weren't leaving.

Wanting a healthier, sustainable lifestyle, they moved into the property in 2008. They started the farm with chickens, and it expanded from there. Eventually, most of their food came from the land.

"We were doing eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, honey, meat of all different varieties, everything that comes from the ground and garden," John Strothenke listed off.

They loved the work, but the days began at 4:30 a.m. and lasted until 10 p.m., John Strothenke said.

In the property description, they describe a four-bedroom home, a two-story barn, and large woodshed and carport, as well as other sheds used for livestock.

There's no mortgage on the property, and annual property taxes are around $5,000, they write.

The couple figures they need about 370 essays to make the contest financially viable. They will allow only 420 entries total — so the odds of winning are relatively good, they said.

For entry advice, June Strothenke said people should "thoughtfully (put) their heart in their essay. Because I think that's what's going to stand out to us as the initial judges."

The pair will choose the top 20 essays. As for the winner, that will be decided by three judges who have not yet been chosen.

"I would love for, you know, somebody, maybe a younger person who's got a small family," to own the farm, John Strothenke said.

First National Bank Alaska is handling the entries and money. The bank will send the essays to the couple, with all names removed, so that each one is anonymous. On Thursday, the couple wasn't sure if any entries were submitted yet.

If it goes well, they'll make back the cost of the house and some profit, John Strothenke said. If the essay contest doesn't pan out, they'll sell conventionally and all entry fees will be returned, they said.

The couple hopes to retire to upstate New York, where they are both originally from, and where family now lives. Both said they never thought they'd leave Alaska.

They have no regrets coming here, John Strothenke said. But he said he might regret leaving.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the First National Bank of Alaska. The bank's name is First National Bank Alaska.


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