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4th and 5th Grade Arbor Day Artwork Contest

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The most recent round of this contest closed on December 10, 2021.

In 2021, DEC's Urban Forestry Program announced the return of the 5th Grade Arbor Day Artwork Contest - expanded to include 4th grade!

In this contest, the designs from one state winner and 11 runner-ups are selected to be featured in a calendar. Winning schools receive calendars for their participating students. The state winner also has a tree planted at their school and receives a framed copy of their poster.

2021 Theme

a child's drawing of a smiling earth with people around it
The winning image for the calendar cover from the 2021 contest

The 2021 theme was: Healthy Trees, Healthy People!

  • Trees near our homes and in our parks help keep people healthy.
  • Trees give us shade, which cools us down in the summer and protects our skin from the sun.
  • Trees help us stay active - people exercise more in parks and streets where there are trees. Some trees are even fun to climb!
  • Trees care for your brain - kids who play in nature are more relaxed and focus better in school.
  • Trees help us breathe by taking pollution out of the air and giving back oxygen.
  • Trees feed us - some trees provide us with healthy and delicious fruits and nuts.

2021 Contest Rules

Please note that all artwork submitted becomes the property of DEC, is retained, and may be reproduced. Posters will not be returned.


Submissions must be received no later than December 10th, 2021.

Eligibility and Participation

Poster contest is open to students that are in 4th or 5th grade during the 2021-2022 school year.

Schools may submit up to 5 posters per grade level.

Homeschool students are welcome to enter.

Each child is limited to 1 poster submission.

Posters must be recieved by December 10th, 2021. Each school must include a report form, and each poster must include a release form. Both forms are in the release and report form file (PDF). The release form must be securely fastened to the poster to be eligible.

Poster Content

All posters should be reflective of the contest theme "Healthy Trees, Healthy People!"

Artwork must be the students' own original work. Copyrighted characters (such as Superman) or copyrighted clip art will not be accepted. Art must not include the names of commercial products, companies, or organizations.

Posters must be clearly legible and words should be spelled correctly.


Any variety of media may be used (watercolor, pen and ink, crayon, chalk, markers, etc.) but bright colors are best.

If students are are making a collage, all items must remain secure to the artwork and survive mailing. Depth is restricted to half an inch.

Size and Layout

  • Minimum: 8½" x 11"
  • Maximum: 11" x 17"
  • Landscape layout only

Poster Submission

Each poster must have the release form (PDF) securely fastened to the back of the poster. A poster not accompanied by a completed Release Form will not be eligible for further judging.

Each school should include a report form (PDF) with posters they submit.

Mailing Instructions

The posters and release forms must be received by December, 10 2021. Please mail to:

Attn: 4th/5th Grade Arbor Day Poster Contest
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4255

Electronic Submission Instructions

Posters are preferred to be received by mail but posters can also be submitted electronically.

Posters and completed release forms can be submitted electronically to - please note in the subject line "2021 4th and 5th Grade Arbor Day Artwork Contest."

The following high-quality digital file formats will be accepted: JPEG, PNG, PDF. Resolution should be 300 dpi. Please hold on to your original poster until February 1st in case your poster is selected and we find we need you to re-submit a higher-quality version. If you have any questions about suitable formats, please contact us at

Judging Criteria and Procedure

All eligible posters will be evaluated based on the following criteria

  1. Poster meets requirements in the section above.
  2. Poster message is clearly conveyed by text and artwork.
  3. Poster shows creativity, originality, and artistic quality.
  4. Poster shows visual clarity and can be easily read.
  5. The release form is completed and attached to the back of the poster or was included with electronic submission.

Schools are limited 5 submissions per grade level for 4th and 5th grade students. Posters will be evaluated by Albany office staff and the 30 best submissions will then be evaluated by ReLeaf committee members around the state who will vote for the state winner plus 11 runner-ups (12 total).


The state winner will recieve a framed copy of their poster, have a tree planted at their school, and their art will be the front cover and month of their choice in the Arbor Day student poster contest calendar. Schools for the state winner and the other winners will receive copies of the poster contest calendar.

Lesson Plans

These lesson plans connect trees and the resources they provide to New York State learning standards.

  • What's up with air pollution? - from DEC's Conservationist for Kids
  • Neighborhood Forests (leaves DEC website) - although targeted at Arizona, the activities in this booklet can be used here in the Northeast - just be sure to learn about native species in our range to discuss
  • Finding my forest: around the corner and across the nation (leaves DEC website) - this lesson on forests from the US Forest Service is a teacher guide all about forests and the benefits they provide
  • Scientific Observation and Forest Bathing (leaves DEC website) - this lesson plan and presentation from the Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns gives teachers everything they need to introduce forest bathing to their students and connect it to the power of scientific observation

Additional Resources for Teachers

For general tree-related lesson plan ideas, visit Project Learning Tree or the National Wildlife Federation (both links leave DEC website).

Inspire kids to care for trees by:


These activities satisfy NYSED Grade 5 Science Learning Standards #4 & 7, Art Learning Standards #1 & 2, and several Math Learning Standards:

Articles and books

  • Nature's Color Palette (PDF) - Conservationist article about why and how leaves change color.
  • The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. This book covers the relationship between the outdoors and health.