In one of the most important scenes in Steven Spielberg’s classic film “ET,” the film’s hero sets the frogs free from his elementary biology class.
An early symbolic act of environmental protest, the freeing of frogs and their attachment to the declining health of the planet becomes a test of faith for those who believe that even the smallest of creatures should not be exploited in the name of progress.
For Jersey City resident, Susan Newman, founder of Frogs Are Green, based in Jersey City, saving the frogs is also a symbol of something larger and more fundamental: frogs reflect the overall problems with the environment.
“Over one third of frogs are threatened with extension,” she said. “They are disappearing from all over the planet, and they’ve been around for over 200 million years. This has to be telling us that something serious is wrong with the planet.”
Learned about frogs on her own
Newman got interested in frogs after she took part in a blog to write a wild life series for kids back in 2009, and then– like Elliot in ET – realized something bad was happening to them. From this emerged the group called Frogs are Green, for which she has created posters, t-shirts, and calendars.
The money raised from the sale of these goes to organizations such as Save the Frogs.
She also started a kids’ art and photo contest, both of which kicked off on Sept. 2. The photo contest is open to people of all ages. The art contest has four categories covering kids from 3 to 16 years old.
“Over one third of frogs are threatened with extinction.” – Susan Newman
This is a concern, because she wanted to reach people near and far. Although she was happy with the response from elsewhere in the world, she also wanted kids here to understand the importance of fogs in the environment.
Entries to the art contest also reflected some of the changes going on in the American educational system, where art classes are being cut in many public schools.
“Unless art is packaged with another subject, kids tend not to have art in school,” she said. “I think art classes are appreciated more in other countries. Maybe kids around world do have after school programs, which is why the contest gets more entries from those places.”
The 5th annual Frogs are Green Kids Art Contest is open to kids from 3 to 16 and will run from Sept. 2 until Dec. 15. The art work has included works in crayon, watercolor, pastel, colored pencil, clay, 3D sculptures, dioramas, murals, mosaics, and mixed media.
“We will award winners in these age groups: 3-6, 7-9, 10-12, and 13-16,” she said. “We have also added a few new categories: Best 3D, Most Unusual, Best Environmental, and this may expand depending on what we receive. Awards are given to 1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place and honorable mention for each age group. The 1st place winners in each age group will receive prizes and the second runner up will receive a Frogs Are Green Poster of their choice from our store. All kids receive a certificate via download on our site.”
The contest theme is Frogs, Amphibians and their Environment. The artwork can be about frogs, amphibians, rainforests, climate change, pollution, etc and how people can help them. The winners will be featured in a post and their artwork shared online and through social media.
To enter the contest, you join the kids’ art contest group on Flickr and just upload your entries. Teachers can upload student’s work and parents can upload their children’s work. Those in a country where they cannot view Flickr can email their digital image to Frogs Are Green along with the child’s name, age and country, and they will add the image to the group.
For the contest, enter the Kids Art Contest 2014 link. Each entry must include the child’s name, age, and country (and a caption if you like) or the submission cannot be judged.
Judges include Mark T. Smith, celebrated American painter, curator, and teacher; Christine Wiltanger, webmaster for the City of Jersey City; Laura Skolar, president of Jersey City Parks Coalition; Derek May, founder, creative director of Drawing Dreams Foundation; Greg Brickey, artist; Greg Spalenka, artist and teacher; Emma Lam, founder of A Small Green Space, and Susan Newman.
The 6th Annual Frogs Are Green Photography Contest received about 100 entries last year and has the same theme. Deadline for submissions is Dec. 15 and the winners will be announced by Jan. 15, 2015. The winners will be featured in a post and their photographs shared online and through social media.
This contest will accept submissions in two categories: Frogs in the Wild and Backyard Frogs. Photos can include pictures of frogs from local or unusual places, but cannot include photo manipulation or pictures of pet frogs. Entries are made via Flickr, and must include full name, state and country where the image was taken. The 1st place winners will receive prizes and 2nd place winners will receive a Frogs Are Green poster of his/her choice from the Frogs Are Green store. Winners will be judged and placed in 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Honorable Mention categories.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.