Elementary (gr. 3-5) Winning Essays 2016

First Place

Peace Essay by Samhita Vartharaj, gr. 5, Luther Memorial School, Richmond

Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Examples in nature show how working together achieves so much more than working independently. One example is the swollen thorn acacia plant that is largely found in Africa and its mutualistic relationship with ants. The alliance between acacia plants and ants teaches humans about how families can cooperate, communities share resources, and countries can find peace.

For instance, acacia and ants teach humans how families work together and get along. Acacia plants and ants have roles that help both of the organisms survive by their interdependence. Each acacia plant has colony of ants living inside its thorns. It is beneficial for the acacia to have the ants because the ant protects the acacia from herbivores such as grasshoppers and elephants. Aside from shelter, the ants also feed on the nectarines that grow on the acacia plants. Similarly, parents and children can learn from acacia and ants. While parents are protectors and providers for the family, children can also play a role in which they support their families by completing chores and tasks around the house. If each member of a family works together to get along, then the family will be happier because everyone is able to contribute and feel like they belong.

Additionally, the relationship between acacia plants and ants teaches how communities can share and obtain resources. One way that the ants contribute to the relationship with the plants, is that they protect the plants from pathogens that cause disease. By providing services to each other, the plants and ants are able to survive. Likewise, citizens can learn how to be like these two species by providing community service. If people learn from the acacia and ant, they [1]can volunteer and give back by donating food to shelters and food banks. If members of a community worked together, they could protect the homeless from hunger, like the acacia plant protects the ants from hunger.

Finally, countries can find peace if they learn from acacia plants and ants. Vines grow around acacia plants and try to steal sunlight that acacia plants need to survive. Ants, however, snip the vines and stop them from blocking the sun. If countries learned to work together and use their resources to help one another, then nations could stop terrorism and wars. In order to find peace in the world, countries need to find out where they can support each other’s needs so that all nations feel supported.

Therefore, acacia plants and ants teach humans how families can cooperate, communities can share resources, and countries can find peace. Some people can see two different organisms that have no similarity. Other people see something like a machine working together to make both organisms have a better life. This relates to Helen Keller’s quote because she is talking about people working together for their needs rather than against each other. This example can everybody, and if we get along like the acacia plant and the ant, we have better environment and a better planet for the future.


Second Place

Learning Peacemaking from Nature

By Caden Thorne Grayson, gr. 3, Blanford Program for Mathematics and Humanities, Petersburg Public Schools

We can learn a lot by observing nature. Spring and summer are my favorite times of year because I get to see many different creatures and plants all around us. My father and I love to watch the chirping birds, crawling insects, fast squirrels and buzzing bees in our yard. We have a lot of pretty flowers and trees in our backyard. We spend a lot of time taking care of our yard and making it beautiful! We also make sure that we feed the birds and clean out their birdhouses.

The bees and flowers are a perfect team. They work together cooperatively. They have figured out how to respect one another, grow together and be at peace with one another. If you look at a bee, you may not understand how it could help another living thing. But you have to look deeper than on the outside of the bee. Bees are very intelligent and they work together under the direction of the Queen Bee. Bees know their jobs and what they must do to survive.

When you think of a flower, I’m sure you have peaceful thoughts. Flowers look pretty and smell sweet. You probably have different thoughts when you think of bees. Bees can be annoying and can sting you. We couldn’t enjoy the beauty of a flower if we didn’t have buzzing bees. Bees pollinate flowers and help them reproduce. Flowers give bees sweet nectar. The bees then give us sweet honey to eat. Bees and flowers need each other to live and we need them. Bees and flowers look different but both are important to us and serve a great purpose.

My family went to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. We saw so many different people who were from various ethnicities and nationalities. Everyone there seemed to be in awe of the beautiful Cherry Blossoms. People took pictures with the Cherry Blossoms and everyone was peaceful even though it was very crowded there. The Cherry Blossoms were a gift from Japan to our country a long time ago. It’s a symbol of peace and friendship to me. My great grandfather fought in Japan during World War II. He shared with us how the Japanese people treated him well when he was in Japan but he was often mistreated in America because he was a colored man. Now our countries are at peace with one another and an African American president leads our country. Who would have thought that Cherry Blossoms could bring so many people together or how our country would elect an African American president. Our country and our world are changing.

All living things including humans need each other to survive in this world. We need to learn how to love one another and accept one another without trying to destroy each other. You can’t judge people by what they look like on the outside. You have to love everyone not just the people who look like you, dress like you, worship like you and act like you. We can’t survive without help from some type of plant, animal and other people. We need to learn lessons from nature to teach us all how to live together in peace and make our world a better place for everyone not just some people but all people.

I challenge each person to think about how they can help a plant, animal and person live in peace. I’m going to start at home by trying not to annoy my fifteen year old brother. We love each other but we like to joke on each other and then we get upset. I’m going to work on us getting along better and taking better care of the plants in my yard and the birds. I have a pet hermit crab named Lucky Seven that my parents take care of. He is my pet and needs to be taken care of by me not my parents. I’m also going to help my neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Smith take care of their vegetable garden. I plan to be kinder to others and treat them with respect because that’s the right thing to do!


3rd place:

Learning Peacemaking from Nature

by Kazuki Yoshiba, gr. 5, J. B. Watkins ES, Chesterfield Co. Public Schools

What are some good examples in nature of cooperation between animals and plants? Can people learn how to live in peace even though they have differences? Maybe people can learn how to help each other from nature. The first part of the peace education center says that giving privileges to all individuals is necessary in order to have a full and abundant life.   The mission also says that people need to build security through cooperation and community. Finally, people must share economic and political power fairly.   Differences can become helpful when both groups help in unique ways.

Cleaner fish and sharks help each other in a special way. Cleaner fish work in groups in one place. When a shark needs cleaning in order to stay healthy, it goes to the cleaner fish in a friendly way and stops. It does not try to eat or chase the fish. The cleaner fish begin to go over the shark, eating all of the harmful things that have grown on it. In the end, the small fish get a good meal while the shark stays healthy. Using this as an example shows that sometimes small nations can help a large nation and all the nations will be better. This can empower all individuals to live full and abundant lives.

Sea anemones and hermit crabs protect each other when they are together. Sea anemones hitchhike on the back of hermit crabs, getting a free ride across the seabed and extending their tentacles to eat the crab’s leftovers.   Crabs actively recruit these passengers. After poking an anemone with its pincers – causing it to release its grip from its current home – the crab holds it in place so the anemone can reattach to the crab’s own shell. In return, the anemones scare off hungry octopuses and other predators using their barbed tentacles. The crabs return the favor by driving away creatures that eat anemones, such as starfish and fireworms. Nations can learn from this example by building security through cooperation and community. This will strengthen both.

Goby fish and snapping shrimp share special skills with each other in life. In a crafty collaboration, snapping shrimp construct and maintain burrows in the seabed, while the fish stands guard. During construction, shrimp leave the burrow to deposit excavated sand. Throughout this dangerous construction , shrimp keep constant contact with their gobies using their antennae. In some cases, gobies even hover above their shrimp, allowing it to take its load further from the burrow’s entrance. When it sees possible danger the fish waggles its tail against the shrimp’s antennae or into the burrow entrance, warning the shrimp of the danger. In return, the fish can call the burrow home, sleeping in it with the shrimp at night and using it as a convenient hideout in times of danger. Differences among people can become helpful when both groups help in unique ways. When people share economic and political power equitably everyone benefits.

Now, since different animals can live in cooperation, how much more can people, groups and nations live in cooperation! Appreciating diversity can help build safety. Sharing economic resources can make the differences between groups of people more equal. Empowering all individual to live full, abundant and healthy lives will benefit everyone. In trying to make a better Earth, we can work together. If we live in peace, what a wonderful future we can share.




Honorable Mentions:

Peace Essay by McKenna Blue, r. 4, Rural Point ES, Hanover Co. Public Schools

Do you ever wonder how plants and animals live in harmony? They need and help each other. Even if it means giving up their lives. Plants die for herbivores.  Herbivores give off carbon dioxide witch plants need to live, and herbivores eat plants. If you were a plant would you be okay with this? From what I have gathered 95% of humans would say no.

Plants produce a powder called pollen. Animal pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, etc. go to the plants to get food and they get pollen on them and that pollenates the plant. Bees for example eat nectar from the flowers.

Humans  could  learn  to  help  each  other  and  not  complain  about  what  we  don’t  have  but  enjoy  life  as  it is. We could also learn to deal with it and be more adaptable.  When times get hard stay together and live as a group. Humans could learn to think about others and give things up for others. Being a little bit more mindful and aware about the small things in life because they could lead up to a big issue.

We could also use these lessons in our communities by staying together and maybe whenever there is a storm help each other by letting someone who does not have a basement stay with you in yours. Volunteering when someone is in need or joining a support group. Even little things like picking up trash. There is always some way to make the word a better place.


Live in Peace and Harmony

By Awna Mack,  gr. 5, Arthur Ashe ES, Henrico Co. Public Schools

Our earth was made with all types of plants, animals, humans, and creatures. We all have a purpose and we’re supposed to live together and depend on each other for survival.

There are many examples of plants and animals living together in harmony. They depend on each other for survival and they thrive when they work together. For example, crocodiles invite a small bird called a plover into its mouth, but it doesn’t eat it. The plover picks meat out of the crocodile’s teeth keeping them clean and free from infection. The plover gets a free meal in the process. Together, they work to accomplish a goal. Tortoises get water from cactus plants in order to survive in desert conditions. The cactus plant serves a very important purpose to make sure animals and humans get the necessary water they need to live where water is scarce. Another example is when plants need carbon dioxide to make food, and they in turn give off oxygen which animals need to survive. Animals and humans must have oxygen to survive and plants do their part to help with our survival.

Humans can learn a lot from the way plants and animals work together. We can learn that animals and plants work great together to accomplish goals. Humans must do our part and help nature so we can accomplish our goals, which is a cleaner and healthy environment. We must be mindful of plants and animals when we use products that effect the environment like pesticides, pollutants and other harmful chemicals.

One of the ways we can apply these helpful lessons is by buying organic foods including fruits and vegetables that do not use harmful pesticides and chemicals. We also can do our part to recycle as much as possible in order to keep our land and water clean. If we use what we’ve learned from watching plants and animals live together, we will be better off.

In conclusion, let’s learn from plants and animals and all live together in peace and harmony. Plants and animals will naturally do their part just as nature planned. Humans must make good decisions every day and respect nature and our environment. Together, we can all make a difference and we can change our environment and heal our planet.


Nature and Mankind

by Shriya Majumdar, gr. 4, Twin Hickory ES, Henrico Co. Public Schools

What is the one word that perhaps best describes the beauty and rhythm of nature? Yes, it’s the word “Harmony”. We see harmony all around us, in the physical environment, in the world of animals, plants and also in their interdependence. Both animals and plants depend on each other for their primary and secondary needs. Humans, who are nothing but social animals, play an important part too. Not only do we humans use nature and are a part of it, but also we have the privilege to learn from nature using our wonderful brains. The beautiful, harmonious and peaceful relationships abundant in nature, when applied to human lives, bring happiness and peace to the world. Let us explore the interdependence of plants and animals; the role of nature in educating mankind; and the impact of nature’s harmony in the lives of people to bring about inner peace.

As we explore nature closely, we are amazed by the interdependence of plants and animals and it’s intriguing to note how they live in symphony with one another. In the natural world, there are many examples of plants and animals living in a symbiotic relationship. One such instance is the bee and the flower1. The bees fly flower to flower collecting nectar, which they make into honey, thus benefiting them. The flower on the other hand gets the opportunity to pollinate as bees suck nectar from one flower to another. Thus, in this symbiotic relationship, the fluttering bees get meals and the plants get to procreate. We see many such amazing instances when we inspect our environment more closely. Earthworms2 are known as farmer’s best friend because of the innumerable services it provides that improves soil health. They act as tiny plows; they eat dead leaves, dirt and produce waste that is good for plants, as they are rich in nutrients and act as manure.

Nature is our mother. Everything mankind has learnt so far came from nature. Learning to illuminate a fire by striking stones, or figuring out the science of farming by observing nature or building a house mimicking birds and animals are mere examples to portray how Mother Nature is undoubtedly the best teacher. Even to this day scientist continue to learn and educate by observing and understanding patterns of nature and its natural beings. Truly, nature is like a vast sea of knowledge, and we can only fish out a little every time we seek to understand it. Nature, while peaceful most of the times can be very disruptive and aggressive at other times. Earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis remind us of the enormous and frantic power of nature and the fact that we must always respect nature. Humans in their endeavor to make their own lives comfortable have acted in such a way that has resulted in an imbalance in nature. Cutting forests for instance to gather wood, has not only disturbed rain cycles but also made many animals endangered. Killing animals to obtain their fur, bones, tusks, and meat is another example. Almost 99% of endangered species3 of animals are at risk from humans. Deep mining to extract oils and metals, or nuclear testing are more such disappointing events that our planet has to endure. We must learn our lessons from nature’s disruptive behavior, caused by imbalance, due to human acts, and learn to use the natural resources only as much as we need and protect our own planet.

My pet dog at my Grandmother’s house once alerted my mom when I fell down, by dragging her close to the spot. This story brings tears to my eyes every time I think of how much love animals can bestow. In our today’s world we hear various kinds of unpleasant things happening all around, some of which are quite disturbing. We often see people not loving each other and breaking the balance of nature. Experiencing the love that animals show us, or the joy, the beautiful flowers bring to our hearts, we must learn to bring in those values to our everyday life. We must help each other and also protect the Earth. That is how we can bring peace to ourselves, to our community and to the entire world.

In my opinion, every day should be “Earth Day”. That is a kind of commitment we owe to ourselves. It might take long to reach our goals of re-establishing harmony within nature, within ourselves and our communities, but we must never give up. I am reminded of these deep feelings through the beautiful words of Robert Frost4, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, / But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep.”



by Aryanah Ravji, gr., 5, Kaechele ES, Henrico Co. Public Schools

The dolphins glide with one another so gently and smoothly; I feel so relaxed watching them. Dolphins work together so peacefully and cooperatively. We can learn about cooperation from dolphins. They can teach us how to work together and we can apply these lessons in our worldly lives.

Bottlenose dolphins live in fluid social groups. In the past, bottlenose dolphin groups have been referred to as pods, social groups of unchanging composition. More recently, long-term studies of bottlenose dolphins have now shown that their group composition changes. Bottlenose dolphins commonly swim in groups of 2 to 15 individuals. Several groups may temporarily join (for several minutes or hours) in open ocean waters to form larger groups during which the dolphins may change associates. In general, group size tends to increase with water depth and openness of habitat. This may correlate with foraging strategies and protection. Some group members establish strong social bonds.

Dolphins can teach us so much. We can learn that we must be accepting of others. We should also develop strong bods with other people in our life. Some examples of these people are our parents, friends and family. We should be adaptable to change, just like dolphins are. Dolphins let other dolphins come into their group willingly. Some humans don not allow people into their groups willingly. An example of this is when somebody new comes to your school and does not have a group, they sometimes feel left out.

We don not realize that we apply the skills that dolphins can teach us. We should never judge somebody in our own life. An example is if there is somebody new at your school do not judge them. Especially because it is hard for them to find a group to connect with. If we never spend time connecting with others we will never form strong bonds between each other.

Now ou can see that dolphins have a lot to teach us about cooperating. We can work together peacefully and be accepting of one another to make our world a better place. If we use these skills in our everyday life then we will be able to work together peacefully. Working together peacefully will let us help one another compromise in the world.


Peacemaking with Nature

By: Ada Woo, gr. 5, Colonial Trail ES, Henrico Co. Public Schools

    Abraham Lincoln once declared to end slavery to create a better world. This, however, did not ensure peace. If we had peace, there would be no more wars or fights. Learning peacemaking from nature can help everyone around the globe live peacefully.  There are many examples in nature where plants and animals collaborate to live a better life. Helping each other, doing good deeds, and cooperating with teamwork are ways we can start making the world better. As you read on, think about what you can do to start enjoying peace in the world.

It is essential that we all help one another. For instance, bees collect the pollen from flowers to take back to their hives. In the process of going from one flower to another, some pollen is picked up from one flower and accidentally dropped on another. Then, pollination results in the formation of seeds. We can learn from this example that people should rely on each other, just like plants and animals do. So, treat others how you’d like to be treated.

There is always someone somewhere in the world trying to cause trouble, or to harm people. To stop this from happening, each of us can perform good deeds. For example, moths and yucca plants provide each other food. Yucca Plants are pollinated by the Moths. The Moths lay their eggs in the flowers, where the larvae hatch and eat some of the developing seeds. Whenever someone has spare time, they can donate to charities and participate in community services. This can help those in need to have a good life.

Independently or as a team, everyone should cooperate and learn to work together. Every year, ants work together to gather food in the fall to survive the harsh, cold winters.  Pheromones are the chemicals ants use to leave scent trails for other ants to follow. Since, the pheromones lead more ants to the trail, their job would get done quicker and they would have more food to survive. Despite this, a team is like puzzle. Each person has to play an important part to finish the job.

As you can see, nature can help us learn peacemaking. Watching plants and animals interacting with one another can influence us to make peace happen on the earth.“Peace cannot be kept by force, therefore, it can only be achieved by understanding,” quoted Albert Einstein. This quote says that we should all understand and accomplish peace all around earth. Hopefully, in the near future, there will be peace, and a perfect place to live.