Contest designed to spark interest in Champlain Quadricentennial

PLATTSBURGH - The region is celebrating the quadricentennial of Samuel de Champlain's exploration of the North Country and one local contest is trying to get kids in on the action.

Mountain Lake PBS has developed "Champlain Chronicles," a writing and illustrating contest that focuses on the life of Champlain. According to Jane Owens, director of outreach and education for the public television station, the contest is meant to encourage students to pretend they are reporters in the time of Champlain and write an article that gives an account of an event during that time.

"We decided to do this to encourage creative writing for middle school students as part of one of our outreach activities," Owens said of the contest, which is open to students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. "We already have the Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustrators contest for younger students. This gives older students a chance to express their creativity."

In addition to the 400th anniversary of Champlain's exploration of the region, the contest coincides with the station's creation of a documentary titled "Dead Reckoning: Champlain in America." The documentary is expected to be released this spring, with a viewing at the Conference on New York State History to be held this June at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.

The timing couldn't have been better for a contest such as this, said Owens.

"A lot of schools are already doing curriculum specifically this year for the quadricentennial, so we wanted to do a creative spin on that," said Owens. "This allows students to celebrate local history and learn a little bit more about Champlain and his impact on the area."

However, younger children don't have to be left out of the fun, said Owens. The Reading Rainbow contest allows children in grades kindergarten through third to write and illustrate about any topic they wish, which could include Samuel de Champlain.

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