Califonia Bountiful

Creative collaborations

September/October 2019 California Bountiful magazine

Students combine fact-finding with imagination

When teams of art students from Sacramento-area high schools set out to illustrate stories penned by young authors in the 2019 "Imagine this…" Story Writing Contest, they discovered it involved more than just putting paintbrush to paper.

Each fall, hundreds of California students in third through eighth grades write stories for the contest. Then Sacramento art students have the opportunity to bring the winning stories to life for a paperback compilation (see Book Reviews).

Before embarking on their projects, the teen artists researched the agricultural topics of the stories to better understand the products and farming operations featured. The students worked to ensure their illustrations accurately depicted the authors' subjects, including avocados, oranges, kiwifruit and redwood trees.

The three-person team from Florin High School in Sacramento, for example, recognized they knew little about farming. So before dividing up art tasks for "Friend of a Farmer," team members dove into research about egg-gathering in chicken coops and the process of milking cows.

"It was a good opportunity for us to learn more about agriculture, develop skills and connect with others," said Florin's team leader, Wendy Liang.

The students' efforts exemplify the goals of the contest, according to Judy Culbertson, executive director of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, which sponsors the annual story-writing competition.

"Our mission is to increase awareness and understanding of agriculture among California's students and educators," Culbertson said. "Every year, we are impressed by how these creative young authors and illustrators delve into their topics."

The art students and their teachers agree it was a positive growth experience.

"The creative process of visualizing the author's ideas was challenging," said Peiqi Zhu of Franklin High School in Elk Grove.

"The real-world experience of working as a team and meeting a deadline was valuable to me," added teammate Malak Abdulmajeed.

The Franklin team illustrated "Drip's Adventure"—a story about the water cycle—by bringing their individual talents to the process. After working together to create the storyboards, one student developed the images and the others outlined them in ink and finished the details in watercolors and colored pencils.

"I like being able to watch the growth in my students as they work toward completing the images for the story," said Scott Coppenger, an art instructor at Woodland High School in Woodland. "This is the first opportunity to get their images published and it is a pretty big deal for them."

Jolaine Collins

Gracie Changes Her Mind

By Gabrielle Warmerdam

Third Grade, Archangel Academy, Kings County
Teacher: Christiana Warmerdam
Illustrated by Ryanne Green and Gladys Padilla
Woodland High School, Woodland
Art instructor: Scott Coppenger

"My favorite part of the story was having the kiwis talk to Gracie and teach her that kiwis are yummy."

A dream about kiwifruit convinces Gracie that what makes them different also makes them delicious.

Friend of a Farmer

By Nicoletta Dowd

Fourth Grade, Gratton Elementary School, Stanislaus County
Teacher: Sheila Amaral
Illustrated by: Wendy Liang, Angelica Lumbang and Jennifer Sotelo
Florin High School, Sacramento
Art instructor: Alexandra Pease

"I was inspired by my grandpa, who farms almonds." 

A young boy discovers his future vocation by helping his grandfather on his farm one summer.

Drip's Adventure 

By Katelyn Warmerdam

Fifth Grade, Archangel Academy, Kings County
Teacher: Christiana Warmerdam
Illustrated by: Malak Abdulmajeed, Isabella Hofsdal, Kristina Tran and Peiqi Zhu
Franklin High School, Elk Grove
Art instructor: Derek Bills

"All agriculture needs water. Plants, animals and people need water to survive."

Drip the water drop gets his wish when he becomes part of California's agricultural scene.

Saving Grandmother's Tree

By Catherine Gruen

Sixth Grade, Signum Crucis, San Bernardino County
Teacher: Ingrid Gruen
Illustrated by: Sherly Angulo and Vy Nguyen
Sheldon High School, Sacramento
Art instructor: Kelsey Dillard

"I learned a lot about smudge pots by writing this story."

A trip to the California Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside inspired this story, based on agricultural innovator Eliza Tibbets and the use of smudge pots.

The Gift 

By Cristian Perez

Seventh Grade, Sacred Heart School, Stanislaus County
Teacher: Elaine Magni
Illustrated by: Ariana Cisneros, Stephanie Estrada, Nicole Martinez
and Janeth Varela
Delta High School, Clarksburg
Art instructor: Corrie Soderlund

"My grandma always wants me to eat avocados because she says they're super healthy, and I like them—so that's why I wrote about them."

After accompanying her grandfather to his Hass avocado farm, Marianna receives a birthday surprise and a delicious treat.

Randy the Redwood

By Matthew Dunn

Eighth Grade, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, Stanislaus County
Teacher: Star Pedron
Illustrated by: Gabrielle de Leon, Nena Salhotra and Holly Velasquez
Inderkum High School, Sacramento
Art instructor: Rachel Rodriguez

"My favorite part about writing the story was going to a wood mill with my dad."

Readers follow Randy the Redwood's life cycle from forest to lumber mill and finally to a playground, learning about the forest industry along the way.

Stories encourage creativity, learning

"Imagine this…" is an annual story-writing contest for California students in grades three to eight. It encourages creative ways to learn about agriculture.

Each year, the top stories, with illustrations, are featured in a book. Winners also are celebrated on California Agriculture Day at the state Capitol in Sacramento, where they are honored by state leaders. They receive e-readers and medals for their work.

There are six winners at the state level, and more than 48 winners at the regional level. The deadline for this year's entries is Nov. 1.

Contest details can be found at

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