2017 Winners Announced in January • 2018 Contest Launch This Fall

frequently asked questions


entering the contest

How do I enter the Contest?

First, please review the Contest information. When you’re ready, you can enter the contest using the online submission form.

Is there a fee to enter the Contest?

No! Entering the contest is completely free of charge.

When does the Contest open and close?

The contest is open throughout the U.S. academic year, so it opens in the fall and closes when school finishes in the spring. The 2017 Contest opens on September 20, 2016 and closes on June 19, 2017 at 11:59 PM Eastern Time (ET).


Who is eligible to submit to the contest?

Any middle school (6-8 grade or the international equivalent) or high school (9-12 grade equivalent) student who is/was enrolled in school while the contest is open. For example, if you are in 8th grade from September 2016 to June 2017, then you would be eligible for the 2017 Contest.

Do I need my parents’/guardians’ permission to enter?

If you are between 13 and 18 years of age, be sure to obtain your parent’s or legal guardian’s permission before you send any information about yourself (such as your name, e-mail address, etc.) to Bow Seat or anyone else over the Internet. If you are under the age of 13, your parent or legal guardian must review and sign the Bow Seat Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Privacy Notice and Consent Form and upload it with your submission.

I am a homeschool student. Am I eligible to enter?

Yes! Please enter the grade at which you are doing your coursework. For example, if you are doing the equivalent of 7th grade work (regardless of your age), then please enter the Middle School age division and enter you grade as 7th.

I am an international student. What age division should I enter?

You should pick the age division that most closely matches the US equivalent. This can usually be found online by searching “Your Country + U.S. grade equivalent.” If that does not work, then please select which division you will enter based on your age. In the U.S., middle school students are usually between the ages of 10-13 years old, and high school students are generally between the ages of 14-18 years old.

Please check this table for a better idea of what category you should enter:

Contest Division Age Range (approx.) USA UK, Canada China Kenya
Middle School
10 – 13
6 – 8
7 – 9
7 – 9
High School
14 – 18
9 – 12
10 – 13
10 – 12

The contest ends in June, but I graduate in May. Am I still eligible to submit?

Yes! As long as your time enrolled in a middle or high school and the current contest overlap, then you are eligible to submit.

I am in my first year at high school, can I submit work that I made as a middle school student?

No. You must submit work that you created between when the last contest closed and the current contest closes. If you start high school in September 2016 and you wish to submit to the 2017 Contest, you must submit work that you made between June 2016 (when the 2016 contest closed) and June 2017 (when the 2017 contest closes).

I am in my first year at college/university, can I submit work that I made as a high school student?

No. You must be enrolled in middle or high school in order to submit to the contest.

submission requirements

What kind of submissions are eligible for the contest?

We accept Art, Poetry, Prose, and Film submissions. Each category is judged separately, and each category will have its own Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorable Mention winners.

What language should my submission be in?

In order to be considered by our judges, your submission and accompanying reflection must be in English.

What are the requirements for each category?

Please review the requirements under the “Categories” section on the Contest information page.

Can I go over the photo/page/video length requirements?

No. We have a policy of making sure that entries are judged fairly across each category, and therefore we require that you fit your entry within the photo/page/length limits. But, even more importantly, we hope that students who participate in the contest will practice and refine communication skills that are useful in the real world, such as learning how to advocate in a concise and clear manner.

We appreciate the work that you are putting into your entry, but we want to challenge you to try to succinctly communicate your ideas within the given limits. Once you submit to our contest, feel free to publish your work elsewhere at whatever length you wish!

Why do I need to write a Reflection?

The Reflection helps your audience and the judges understand more about you, your work, and the issue you address. It is like the introduction to a book, or an artists’ statement in a museum. The judges will not lower your score for a poorly written reflection, but writing a good reflection will certainly help the judges understand you and your work better and you will likely do better in the contest!

You may think: But why do I have to write about my work, instead of let the work speak for itself? It’s important to practice talking about your work because it’s one of the hardest but most fundamental skills of being an advocate. People who see your work will likely want to ask questions that only you can answer — the reflection is kind of like an FAQ. Why did you do what you did? How did you create it? What inspired you? What meaning have you made out of your exploration of ocean pollution? Entice people who see your work to look longer, deeper, and most of all to think about the issue you are trying to address.

Do I have to write a bibliography?

If you use ideas, facts, quotes, or existing media in your entry or Reflection that are not your own, we ask you to cite those sources (in any style). That means you must cite any facts or information that you did not discover, create, or come up with yourself.

A bibliography shows our judges that you did research on the topic, and your arguments are stronger if they are supported with verifiable and pertinent evidence. Creating a bibliography helps students build research, critical thinking, and analytical skills. Ultimately, we want to challenge all of our participants to refine their communication skills so that they can become more persuasive and powerful advocates for our oceans.

Can I mail in my submission?

No. We only accept submissions using our online submission platform.

Will I ever need to ship my original work to the Contest?

No, you will never be required to ship us your original work. However, we recommend saving your original work until the winners of the contest are announced, just in case there is an issue receiving the files you submitted using our online platform.

If I submit my work to the Ocean Awareness Student Contest, can I also submit it to other contests?

Yes! We do not compete for the exclusive rights to your work because 1) you own your work, and 2) we think your work should be spread as far as possible into the rest of the world. Our oceans need as loud a voice as we can give them, so please send your work far and wide!

What other information do I need to submit to the contest?

Once you have prepared your submission and your Reflection, we will ask you for some personal information including your name, email, school information, and information for an adult sponsor.


I’ve been asked to be a sponsor. What are the responsibilities?

Whether you are a teacher who assigned this contest as a class project, or a parent helping your child explore their creative potential, or an adult who simply was asked to be a sponsor for a student submitting on their own, your responsibilities are simple. All we need is to be able to contact you in case we have issues getting in touch with your student(s). When your student(s) submits their work, they will be asked to give your name and email address. You will receive a confirmation email once they submit, so that you can have it on record as well.

If you want to take it a step further, we encourage you to use your relationship with your student as a way for you both to practice talking about issues facing our oceans, and how the arts are a powerful and meaningful way to be an advocate. One of the most fundamental (and most difficult!) skills of being an ocean advocate is learning how to overcome the fear of speaking out. However you choose to do it, we encourage you to help each other practice talking about how our lives connect to ocean pollution and how art, poetry, prose, or film can make a meaningful difference in our world.

How do I nominate my Sponsor for a Sponsor Recognition Prize?

We offer Sponsor Recognition Awards of $750 to incredible sponsors who help change the lives of their students and change the world for the better. These awards are nomination-based. Students can nominate sponsors using our online form.

winners and awards

What award could I win by submitting to the Contest?

o Awards will be presented in each of the four categories at both middle school and high school levels. You can find award information on the Contest information page.

How is the Contest judged?

A panel of judges reviews the submissions, and each submission is anonymously evaluated by at least three judges. Our judges are artists, poets, writers, filmmakers, and ocean scientists. Submissions are judged based on: artistic voice, originality, and imagination; craftsmanship, including quality, technique, attention to detail, and accuracy of communicating ocean pollution issues; how well they address the theme of the Contest; and meeting the Contest submission requirements.

When will the winners be announced?

The 2017 Ocean Awareness Student Contest results will be publicly announced in January 2018. Each winner and their Sponsor will receive notification the day before the announcement goes public.

Why does it take so long to reveal the winners?

Judging begins immediately after the Contest ends, and we take the time to fairly judge each and every entry to the Contest. In 2016, we received over 2,100 submissions and our team of judges put in over 1,500 hours of cumulative work watching your films, viewing your art, and reading your poetry, prose, and reflections. We know you’re anxious to hear Contest results. We take an enormous amount of pride in the amount of care we put into the contest, and we hope that you can be patient with us as we continue to do so!

What happens with the School Donation if I am a Gold Winner in my category?

If you are a Gold Winner in your category (either middle or high school), we will give your school a donation. We will coordinate directly with your school’s development office or principal in order to send the donation.

To school administrators: if your student was a Gold Winner, please email us at info@fromthebowseat.org.

How will I receive my award?

If you are a winner, you will receive an email notification from us giving you specific instructions on how to claim your award.

What should I expect as a winner after the awards are announced?

We believe that your art, poetry, writings, and film should go out into the eyes of the public, because that’s what you made it for anyway! We will do our best over the course of the next year to celebrate you as winners by coordinating art exhibits, film showings, as well as guest publishing of poetry and writing in various outlets through our amazing partners.

What happens if my work is shared on social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?

We will always credit your work to you, but we’d love it even more if we could directly tag you in our post! Please go follow us on social media so we can tag you. Once your work is posted, please share or it or repost it so that your friends and followers can see how much we appreciate the awesome work you are doing. Find us @fromthebowseat or tag us #FromTheBowSeat


Don't see your question here? Email us at info@fromthebowseat.org.