In 2018, fifth graders at Sand Lake Elementary and Summit Elementary were invited to participate in the 2nd Annual Upper Mississippi River Refuge Nature Writing Contest. They wrote poems and personal narratives, and persuasive essays sharing their experiences of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge and nature in general. On June 4th, awards were presented at the school assemblies by teachers Jodi Hoscheit and Erica Rasmussen, Refuge manager Tim Miller, FWS visitor services ranger Jamie Bertram, and Friends of the Refuge - Mississippi River Pools 7 & 8 representatives Ruth Davis and Ruth Nissen presented the awards.

 On June 9th, the first prize winners and their parents enjoyed a 2-hour interpretive cruise with Ranger Tim and Ranger Katie on beautiful Pool 8 near the Brownville Overlook. Other prizes included Ranger Rick subscriptions and gift certificates for the Prairie Wind Nature Store. The student writings are posted below, as well as in the Refuge Visitor Center on Brice Prairie.

 A special thank you to the teachers of Sand Lake Elementary – Ms. Hoscheit, Mr. O'Neill, and Mr. Schollmeier for engaging the students, as well as Summit teacher, Ms. Rasmussen.


1st Place Poetry Sandlake:  Adam S., 5th Grade


Ahhhh, fresh morning air, Bluebirds singing without a care.               Bees leaving their hives to pollinate flowers,                                              Man it’s a shame we are only here for two hours!

Sun beating down in need of water, I do not know how it could get any hotter. Drop by drop, sweat dripping from my face, Just some shade would help my case.

Back at the visitors center, nice and cool. I need some lunch, to give me some fuel. Plants and kids dispersing seeds, Mice and shrews scurrying through the weeds. Leaves are falling and birds are calling. Winter is coming.

Snow is falling, not making a sound, Soft white fluff, all over the ground. Wow! An owl pellet laying right there, Filled with skulls, tiny bones, feathers and hair.

“I am exhausted”, kids will say, Thank you Rangers, these were such fun days.

2nd Place Poetry Sandlake: Samuel L., 5th Grade

The geese honk above

The calming wind blows the grass

All is at peace here

3rd Place Poetry Sandlake: Wessley S., 5th Grade

Wildlife at the refuge

Fish glimmering in the water

Birds gliding in the air

In search of food

Muskrats building their homes

Birds migrating

Planting seeds


Wind blowing

Seeing new things

Doing new things

Exploring new things

Learning new things


2nd Place Poetry Summit: Terrance C., 5th Grade

The hot air on my face.

The chirping of a bird.

The taste of the fire.

The smell of the pine.

The silence of a lizard running around.

A bunch of bones on the ground.

Nature changed my life and I hope it makes a

Difference in yours.

1st Place Narrative - Summit: Maddox C., 5th Grade

It was 2017 when I got on the bus. Climbing up the steps I heard other 4th graders bustling about the weekend. As I sat down on my seat I saw two eagles, one immature and the other adult, above the 60 yard field looking for mice or something as we pulled away leaving Summit Environmental. We drove into our school forest and the frog pond was visible through the thick green trees. The frogs could be heard too but I saw something else,  what looked to be 3 car tires scattered across the forest floor that had made me a little bit mad but we were probably going to pick them up sometime later in the year. I could see the clearing to the road as we pulled away from the dirt on to the black top. I looked out the window and felt the cool summer breeze flowing through the bus. We were about a mile or so from Myrick Park. I opened my backpack and took out my nature journal and wrote down some facts and then we hit the bump and I knew where we were on the bridge going over the Black River. I saw two kids fishing in a boat near by and seagulls above, with their white feathers and black tail, looking for fresh fish swimming free.

2nd Place Narrative - Summit: Hailey K., 5th Grade

I go camping a lot, and I love to go out at night and go to the pond and catch frogs and release them.  Sometimes I just pause for a moment and look at the beautiful waterfall with all the gorgeous lights beaming on the waterfall and with all of the frogs in the background croaking and then the still Beautiful water and the white sand that is so soft on my bare feet. I just love my campground and all the beautiful surroundings.

1st Place Persuasive - Sandlake: Bryn S., 5th Grade

Friends of the Refuge

There is a wonderful place close to the place you live! There’s amazing wildflowers in many colors. There is a variety of animals to watch migrate, and run around. You will be sure to make many great memories! It’s the Upper Mississippi River Refuge! I think more people should go to the refuge because you make awesome memories, you can see so much wildlife and you get exercise, all at the same time!

One reason i think more people should go to the refuge is because you make awesome memories. I remember when i went to the refuge in third grade, we harvested milkweed seeds. We picked them off the plant, put the seeds in baggies, and took them back to school with us. Then when we went again, my class planted them in a field. The milkweed seeds went flying because it was windy, and looked like snowflakes! It was amazing to see!

Another reason I think more people should go to the refuge is because, you can see so much wildlife. For example, there are many wildflowers, and plants. Looking out at the fields of beautiful flowers you can see the purple, white and orange colors mix amongst one another like a painting. In addition to the plants, there are many birds that you can only see at the Refuge, like the majestic tundra swans, and migrating geese. In the visitor’s center there is a glass part in the floor where they have an underwater replica. The fish are not living but they look realistic and alive in this display.  

The final reason i think more people should go to the refuge is because, you can get exercise while you are there. There are so many trails to walk. Some are short staying near the visitors center, while others are longer and go out to the bridge where you can see more of the birds that are part of the refuge. Both options let you see the amazing wildlife in different ways.

The refuge is the place to be. When you go you will see wildlife and plants all around. It’s there for you to enjoy! I think more people should stop by the refuge to make awesome memories, see so much wildlife, and to get exercise. The refuge is one amazing place and you should go!

The Refuge

The Refuge is the place to be

Maybe you should go and see

Wildlife and plants all about

Animals stopping in or migrating out

Rangers there to always help find

Species of different kinds

The Refuge is the place to be

Maybe you should go and see!