Each year the International Fund for Animal Welfare holds an art contest that receives more than 1,000 submissions. The winners of the contest are honored by having their artwork displayed on IFAW’s website.

IFAW’s artistic challenge this year was to create a drawing or painting of one or more of the animals that IFAW rescues and protects around the world. The contest was open to children ages 4 to 18.

Marymount of Santa Barbara fourth-grader Riley Borchardt was one of the IFAW winners this year.

Riley’s exquisite drawing of an endangered elephant was selected for honorable mention and will be permanently exhibited on IFAW’s website. You can find Riley’s winning project by clicking here and then on “U.S. Art Contest 2012-13 Honorable Mentions.”

The art program at Marymount, taught by Jessica House, designs and teaches an art history-based studio art program that incorporates a strong multicultural component, and encourages unique artistic interpretation and creative risk-taking in projects. Recently, House’s student art was featured at the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens. The exhibit was chosen for its impressive use of natural resources in the construction “Nature Houses.”

“All my students K-5th participate in the contest in a one-month unit in January,” House said. “I introduce the unit with an IFAW video on the endangered animal that IFAW chooses to highlight each year — this year it is the elephant. We learned everything about elephants, from instincts, intelligence, memory, physical characteristics, purpose and essential role in their environment, that elephants are on the brink of extinction due to illegal poaching for their ivory tusks and environmental damage, and what we can do to protect them, such as boycott ivory … . (I was especially moved to learn) that baby elephants need physical contact every three seconds for emotional reassurance, so they continuously cuddle with other elephants.”

After Marymount students learn about the IFAW animals, each student chooses an endangered animal to draw. They explore photos to capture every detail that make the animals unique. The final artistic challenge is to give each animal charm and personality. This is another reason Riley’s drawing of an elephant stands out and was recognized by judges.

“The purpose of IFAW’s contest and why I spend time on an endangered animal unit,”  House said, “is because students respond strongly to animals in need. Each year, IFAW receives over 1,000 entries and chooses 15 as winners and 30 additional entries for honorable mention; these 45 entries will be permanently featured on their website.”

Marymount is an independent coeducational school, junior kindergarten through 8th grade, on a picturesque 10-acre campus nestled on the Santa Barbara Riviera. Building on a 75-year tradition of excellence, the educators at Marymount have crafted a unique learning experience that blends mastery of core subjects with acquisition of the essential skills students need to navigate and be successful in a rapidly evolving world.

— Molly Seguel is the admissions director for Marymount of Santa Barbara.