Student Activities

George Washington Carver National Monument 3rd & 4th Grade Art and Essay Contest

Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Social Studies
Common Core Standards:
3.L.1, 3.L.2.a, 3.L.3, 4.L.1, 4.L.2, 4.L.3
State Standards:
Missouri State Standards
Writing: 1.A., 1.B, 1.C, 2.B
Language: 1.A, 1.B

National Visual Arts Standards – Media Arts:
Pr6.1.3; Pr8.1.3
Pr6.1.4; Pr8.1.4

3rd & 4th Grade Art and Essay Contest - Education, based on George Washington Carver’s quote: “…education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom to our people.”  

Teachers, your students are invited to enter original artwork or essays based on the theme and quote. The contest is open to 3rd & 4th graders. First place winners become park rangers for a day! Entry deadline is February 16th, 2024.

George Washington Carver National Monument preserves the birthplace and childhood home of George Washington Carver, renowned scientist and educator who was also a prolific letter writer and artist. This contest strengthens writing skills and encourages artistic expression. 

Theme: Education, based on George Washington Carver’s quote from 1896 letter to Bookerr T. Washington: “…education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom to our people." Two primary documents are included in this packet: Attachment One is his letter to Booker T. Washington on April 12, 1896, and Attachment Two is his biographical letter entitled 1897 or Thereabouts.  

Entry Rules and Submission 

  • open to all 3rd-4th graders
  • 3rd & 4th grade entries judged together
  • limit one art category entry and one essay per student
  • art judged in three categories: 2-D, 3-D, or groups (3-5 students)
  • 2-D or 3-D artwork limited to 24” on any side; submit by mail, in person, or email one photo as .jpg or .pdf
  • cover page and release statement must be included with each entry
  • entry postmark deadline: February 16, 2024
  • open to all 3rd-4th graders
  • 3rd & 4th grade entries judged together
  • limit one art category entry and one essay per student
  • essays limited to 500 words, typed or hand-written; submit by mail, in person, or email one file as .doc, .pdf, or .jpg 
  • cover page and release statement must be included with each entry
  • entry postmark deadline: February 16, 2024
Judging - Educators, artists, and other qualified judges volunteer their time to judge art entries. Art is judged on theme expression, originality, technical ability, creativity. An art show will be set up in the visitor center beginning March 4th, 2024.  Essay judges are preservice teachers, retired educators, authors, and others interested in youth writing. Essay judging is based on the 6+1 trait writing scoring guide:

Awards – An outdoor awards ceremony and reception is set for April 6th, 2024, at 2:00 p.m. First, second, and third place winners in each category receive a medal. All participants receive an official certificate. First place winners receive a George Washington Carver biography and get to be a park ranger for a day! Teachers of first place winners in each category also receive a George Washington Carver biography.
Special guest: Roary the Lion from MSSU will join the awards fun! Get your photo taken with Roary! Refreshments will be served. 

Teacher Resources
  1. George Washington Carver's letter, 1897 or Therabouts (included)
  2. Carver the Artist lesson plans Educator Resources - Teachers (U.S. National Park Service) ( (call or email to have this sent to you)
  3. Film (12 min.): George Washington Carver, A Man of Character
  4. Virtual Visits with park rangers and park volunteers to discuss the theme; contact the park to schedule 
  5. Art and Essay webpage
The George Washington Carver National Monument 3rd & 4th Grade Art and Essay Contest is generously supported by Department of Teacher Education - Missouri Southern State University, Carver Birthplace Association, Spiva Center for the Arts, and Volunteers In Parks at the park. Thanks to each and every one!

Send submission to:

For questions call 417-325-4151
George Washington Carver National Monument
5646 Carver Road
Diamond MO 64840

Cover Page and Release Statement
Please type or print the following information.

Student Name    _________________________________
Grade Level _______

School Name     _______________________________________________

Teacher Name   _______________________________________________

Teacher Email   _____________________________ Telephone ____________

George Washington Carver National Monument 3rd & 4th Grade Art and Essay Contest Release Statement

I declare and affirm that I am the person who created the work submitted and that I consent to the art and/or essay being entered in the Art and Essay Contest and for it to be displayed, should it win 1st-3rd place, on the George Washington Carver National Monument website and/or in other publications at George Washington Carver National Monument.

Student signature ____________________________________
Date _____________________


Attachment One
April 12, 1896[1]

My Dear Mr. Washington:         
 Yours of April 1 just received, and after a careful consideration of its contents. I now venture a reply. It is certainly very kind of you to take the interest you have in me.         

 Of course it has always been the one great ideal of my life to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of “my people” possible and to this end I have been preparing myself for these many years; feeling as I do that this line of education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom to our people.         

 Please send me catalogues and any other data you may have with reference to your institution, so I may get some idea of the present scope of your work and its possible and probable extension. I should consider it a very great privilege to have an interview with you, but cannot say if I will be in the west or no. As among the prospective locations, I accepted a position within the shadow almost of your own institution, and nothing more remained to be done but the election to chair, but said election was deferred until spring, and will take place very soon now. So if you are prepared to make me an offer now it shall receive my first consideration…         

 Should I not accept the position above mentioned I will be here at the college all summer except when my occupation calls me away. At the next writing I hope to give you a more definite answer.         

 May the Lord bless you and prosper your work.
 Geo. W. Carver


[1] Tuskegee Institute Archive, George Washington Carver Papers, reel 1, frame 0762.

Attachment TWO

1897 Or Thereabouts
George Washington Carver’s Own Brief History of His Life

(NOTE: The following letter written by George Washington Carver contains phonetic spellings and, in some cases, misspellings.)

 As nearly as I can trace my history, I was about 2 weeks old when the war closed. My parents were both slaves, Father was killed shortly after my birth while hauling wood to town on an ox wagon. 

 I had 3 sisters and one brother. Two sisters and my brother I know to be dead only as history tells me. Yet I do not doubt it as they are buried in the family burying ground.

 My sister mother and myself were ku Cluckled1, and sold in Arkansaw And there are now so many conflicting reports concerning them I dare not say if they are dead or alive. Mr. Carver, the Jentleman who owned my mother sent a man for us, but only I was brought back, nearly dead with whooping cough, with the report that mother and sister was dead, although some sauy they saw them afterwards going north with the soldiers.

 My home was near Neosho Newton Co Missouri where I remained until I was about 9 years old my body was very feble and it was a constant warfare between life and death to see who would gain the mastery-----

 From a child I had an inordinate desire for knowledge, and especially music, painting, flowers, and the sciences. Algebra being one of my favorite studies.

 Day after day I spent in the woods alone in order to callect my floral beautis, and put them in my little garden I had hid hidden in brush not far from the house., As it was considered foolishness in that neighborhood to waste time on flowers.

 And many are the tears I have shed because I would break the roots or flower of off some of my pets while removing them from the ground, and strange to say all sorts of vegetation seemed to thrive under my touch until I was styled the plant doctor, and plants from all over the country would be brought to me for treatment. At this time I had never heard of botany and could scerly read.

 Rocks had an equal fascination for me and many are the basketsfull that I have been compelled to remove from the outside chimney corner of that old log house, with the injunction to throw them down hill. I obeyed but picked up the choicest ones and hid them in anotherplace, And some how that same chimney corner would, in a few days, or weeks be running over again to suffer the same fate I have some of the specimens in my cullection now and consider them the choicest of the lot. Mr. and Mrs. Carver were very kind to me and I thank them so much for my home training. They encourogyed me to secure knowledge helping me all they could, but this was quite limited.

 As we lived in the country no colored schools were available So I was permitted to go 8 miles to a school at town (Neosho). This simply sharpened my apetite for more knowledge. I managed to secure all of my meager wardrobe from home, and when they heard from me I was cooking for a wealthy family in Ft. Scott Kans. for my board, clothes and school privileges.

 Of course they were indignant and sent for me to come home at once, to die as the family doctor had told them I would never live to see 21 years of age.I trusted to God and pressed on (I had been a Christian since about 8 years old.) Sunschine and shadow were profusely intermingled such as naturaly befall a defenceless orphan by those who wish to prey upon them

 My health began improving and I remained here for two or 3 years, From here to Olatha, Kans. to school, From there to Paola Normal School, from there to Minneapolis, Kans. where I remained in school about 7 years finishing the high school, and in addition some Latin and greek. From here to Kans. City enterd a business college of Short hand and typewriting. I was here to have a position in the union telegraph office as stenogropher & typewriter, but the thirst for knowledge gained the mastery and I sought to enter Highland College in k at Highland Kans. Was refused on account of my culor.

 I went from here to the Western part of Kans where I saw the subject of my famous Yu Yucca & Cactus painting that went to the Worlds Fair. I drifted from here to Winterset Iowa, began as head cook in a large hotel. Many thanks here for the acquaintance of Mrs. & Mr.& Mrs. Dr. Milholland, who insisted upon me going to an Art school, and choose Simpson College for me.

 The opening of school found me at Simpson attempting to run a laundry for my support and batching to economize For quite one month I lived on prayer beef suet and corn meal, and quite often being without the suet and meal. Modesty prevented me telling my condition to strangers.

 The news soon spread that I did laundry work and realy needed it, so from that time on favors not only rained but poured upon me. I cannot speak too highly of the faculty, Students and infact, the town jeneraly, they all seemed to take pride in seeing if he or She might not do more for me than someone else.

 But I wish to especially mention the names of Miss Etta M. Budd my art teacher Mrs. W. A. Liston & family, and Rev. A. D. Field & family. Aside from their substantial help at Simpson, were the means of my attendance at Ames. (Please fix this to suit).

 I think you know my career at Ames and will fix it better than I. I will simply mention a few things. I was received the prize offered for the best herbarium in Cryptogamy I would like to have said more about you Mrs. Liston & Miss Budd but I feared you would not put it an in about yourself, and I did not want one without all.

 I received a letter from Mrs. Liston and she gave me an idea that it was not to be a book or anything of the kind this is only a fragmentary list.

 I knit Chrochit, and made all my hose mittens, etc. while I was in school

 If this is not sufficient please let me know, And if it ever comes out in print I would like to see it.

 God bless you all,
 Geo. W. Carver

1Note: This is Carver’s word, and appears to mean “kidnapped.”

Little is known about George Washington Carver’s early life. Even some of his own recollections are sketchy and are not supported by fact. This article is meant to provide a general overview of George Washington Carver’s life and should not be used as the definitive source on his life. This transcription is from George Washington Carver’s original letter based on his reflections of his early life. NOTE: This primary document retains the author’s original spelling from 1897.


This teacher packet contains the theme, entry rules and submission, cover page and release statement, and two primary documents to support student research and work.

Download Teacher Packet: George Washington Carver National Monument Art and Essay Contest for 3rd and 4th Graders

Lesson plans

Download George Washington Carver - The Artist Curriculum

Last updated: October 31, 2023