Crop of art by Michelle Minzhi Li

K-12 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest

Announcing the winners of the 2024 contest!

Cómo participar, en Español

The next contest deadline will be January 30, 2025. Contest details and entry form will be available by September. Sign up to join the email list to be notified when the contest opens.

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Contest prizes provided in part by generous donations from Acorn Naturalists, Blick Art Materials, and Aquarium of the Pacific. Judging assistance provided by members of the Tabula Poetica Center for Poetry at Chapman University.

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View the 2024 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest online and on exhibit at the following locations:

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Poetry was featured in the May 2024, 2023, 2022, 2021, 2020, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015 issues of TAB, The Journal of Poetry & Poetics.

A sunset on calm water with gentle waves, a mountain in the background.
Artwork by Betty Ding

Support this contest by purchasing prints and other items featuring the artwork.

Blick Art Materials          Acorn Naturalist          Tabula Poetica          Aquarium of the Pacific

"Thank you for giving kids this opportunity to engage with art and poetry and connect with our wonderful, magical California coast."
– parent

"Most of the students I teach have a lot of concern about what's happening to the ocean, the air, the creatures, and the human beings on the earth. I think writing poems helps them to express themselves and to feel that they are making a difference. They also like knowing that other young people are doing the same."
– teacher


Galleries of Past Winners:

    2024    |    2023    |    2022    |    2021    |    2020    |    2019    |    2018    |    2017    |    2016    |    2015    |    2014    |    2013     |    2012    |    2011    |    2010     |    2009    |    2008    |    2007     |    2006    |    2005    |    2004     |    2003    |    2002    |    2001     |    2000    |    1999    |    1998     

2024 CONTEST GUIDELINES (check back in September for 2025 details):

Download a PDF of these guidelines

  1. This contest is open to California residents in grades K-12. (Immediate family members of Coastal Commission staff are not eligible.)

    There are five grade categories for awards in both art and poetry: K-1, 2-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. Entries must have a California coastal or ocean theme (for example, no tropical or arctic settings or species). Art does not need to depict specific places or species, but if it does, they must be California places and species. Meaning, sometimes a fish is just a "fish," but if it's a recognizable type of fish, make sure it's one that lives here! (Learn about California native species.) And while you can submit a poem about "the beach," please don't submit one about Waikiki Beach, for example.

    Winners will be selected for art and poetry in each of the five grade categories; winners will receive a $100 gift certificate to an art supply store (art), courtesy of Blick Art Materials, or a bookstore (poetry), and tickets to Aquarium of the Pacific, courtesy of the Aquarium. Each winner's teacher (named on the Entry Form) will receive a $50 gift certificate for educational supplies from Acorn Naturalists. In addition, multiple honorable mentions may be selected.
  2. Poems and artwork must be student's original work. If a poem is a reference to an existing poem (or song, or other work), that poem and poet should be named on the entry.

    Artists should include a short statement of a paragraph or less describing their inspiration for the artwork. If needed, this can be dictated to or translated by the teacher, parent, or other helper. (Please make a note if that's the case, and include the original text if translated.) Any art entry that has been traced from or is a digital alteration of an existing photo or image that was created by someone other than the student is a violation of the competition rules. AI-generated art submissions violate competition rules. If using an image created by someone else (of an animal, for example) as a model for an art entry, student's artwork must be significantly different to avoid plagiarism. No hands other than the student's own should be involved in the creation of artwork.
  3. Original artwork may not exceed 11 x 17 inches in size. Acceptable art media are paint, pencil, markers, ink, crayon, chalk or pastel (fixed), collage, and digital art. Three-dimensional pieces, photography, or art that uses glitter are not eligible.
  4. Entries must be uploaded by 5:00pm California time on January 31. Students may enter multiple pieces but must complete a separate entry form for each one. A parent or guardian must approve and sign the Entry Form. Winners will be contacted directly and announced on this website by early April. Sign up to receive an email announcement.
  5. Be sure to keep the original artwork. If artwork is a winner or honorable mention, student must mail the original artwork (unless artwork is a digital creation) to the Coastal Commission. Artwork will be kept by the Coastal Commission for approximately one year as part of a traveling public exhibit.
  6. Please use the online entry process if possible. If digital upload of entries causes a hardship (e.g. if you are a teacher who wants to submit your class's entries, or you don't have easy access to scan or photograph your entry), you can submit in one of the following two ways:
    • Entries and completed paper Entry Forms (English; Spanish) can be carefully photographed and emailed to by 5:00pm on January 31. Be sure to keep the original artwork (see #5 above). Note: a parent or guardian must sign Entry Form.

    • Entries can be mailed to the California Coastal Commission at 455 Market St, Suite 228, San Francisco CA 94105. Print out and complete a paper Entry Form in English or Spanish for each entry. Poems should be printed on the back of the completed Entry Form (preferred) or stapled to the Entry Form. Note: a parent or guardian must sign Entry Form. Attach completed Entry Form and a short Artist's Statement about the inspiration for the artwork to the back of each piece of artwork with glue or tape. Please do not fold art or use paperclips or staples. Mailed entries must arrive at the Coastal Commission no later than February 1st. Multiple entries (whether from one student or from a group) can be sent in one package, but each entry must have its own entry form attached. The Coastal Commission is not responsible for entries that are late, damaged, or lost. ENTRIES WILL NOT BE RETURNED. If you have questions or would like to talk about mailing art, please feel free to email.

For more information, or to request to have an entry form emailed or mailed to you, contact the California Coastal Commission at


For art entries not created digitally, scan your artwork at 300 dpi or take a photo of the art on a flat surface or wall with good lighting and no shadow, camera directly in front of it (not at an angle). For poetry entries, create a document with your poem or make a scan or photo of a hand-written poem. Do not include your name or other personal information on the poem.

With your parent or guardian, complete the entry form, where you will upload your art or poetry. If you (the student) is 18 years or older, you can complete the form yourself. The entry form will ask for the following information:

  • Your name, age, and grade
  • Title of your art or poetry
  • If entering art, the medium that you used (for example, watercolor, crayon, colored pencil, digital…)
  • If entering art, the measurements of your artwork; the maximum size allowed is 11"x17"
  • If entering art, a short artist's statement of a paragraph or less. Poems do not need to include a statement.
  • Your school's name and teacher's name if applicable
  • School address, phone number, and teacher's email if applicable
  • Your parent or guardian's name
  • Your mailing address, phone number, and an email address for your parent or for you. (Please don't use a school email if it can't receive outside messages and if it isn't regularly checked.)

You will be asked whether you allow your city's name to be publicly shared if you are a winner or honorable mention.

Your parent or guardian will digitally sign on your behalf to agree to the following:

Pledge of Originality: The poem or artwork I am submitting to the California Coastal Commission's Coastal Art and Poetry Contest is my child's original work. If my child's poem is a reference an existing poem, they have named the poem and poet on the entry. My child did not trace other artwork or photography, or digitally alter an existing photo or image that was created by someone else. Their art is not AI-generated. If my child used an image created by someone else (a photo of an animal, for example) as a model for an art entry, my child's artwork is significantly different to avoid plagiarism. No hands other than my child's were involved in the creation of the artwork.

Your parent or guardian will digitally sign the entry form releasing the Coastal Commission from liability and granting non-exclusive rights to your contest entry, meaning that the Coastal Commission can use your art or poetry, but it is also still yours to use as you like.

Please enter online if possible. If you are not able to do so, you may print out a paper entry form and mail it in with your art or poetry. See #6 of the Contest Guidelines for instructions on how to do that.

For Teachers:

Find free curricula and other resources on our For Educators webpage.


Below are some questions that can encourage artwork or poetry. Entries need not be about anything in particular except the California coast or ocean. Students should create whatever our coast inspires them to create.

  • Have you ever been to a California beach?
  • Have you read a story/heard a song/seen a movie about the beach or ocean?
  • What do you do at the beach?
  • What do you see at the beach?
  • What animals live on the coast or in the ocean off California?
  • How are people connected to the ocean?
  • What colors can you see at the beach?
  • What sounds do you hear at the beach?
  • What textures do you feel at the beach?
  • Why do you love the beach or the ocean?
  • What things may harm the California coast?
  • What does the ocean make you think of?
  • How does the ocean make you feel?
  • How can we protect the ocean?
  • Do you have a memory of being at the coast that was special/powerful/sad/comforting/mundane...?
  • What would California/your life/your community be like without the ocean?
  • What is California/your life/your community like because of the ocean?


If specific species or habitats are depicted in an entry, they must be California species and habitats. (Of course, entries may be more abstract, and particular species need not be identifiable; but students should not submit obviously non-California images such as clownfish, coconut palms, walruses, penguins, etc., or landscapes of identifiable non-California locations.) Below are some websites with images and information about the many native species of the California coast. If you know of another website to add to this list, please email us. These sites should be used for habitat and species information only. If using a photo model taken by someone else, the image must be significantly altered to avoid plagiarism.

Need Common Core connections to the poetry contest?

Poetry can be used to convey opinion (Writing Standard 1), inform (Grades K-2 Writing Standard 2), and narrate events (Writing Standard 3). Peer review and revision strengthens the final product (Writing Standard 5). A poem can recall information from experiences (e.g. a visit to the beach) or can be inspired by sources such as a book about the ocean or images and descriptions of ocean species (Grades K-5 Writing Standard 8). A poem can be the culmination of a research project, or accompany a more traditional research paper to expand on the ideas and/or emotions evoked by the topic (Writing Standard 7) or to reach a different audience with the information (Writing Standard 10).

Reciting a student's own poetry can be a powerful and enlightening experience (Grades 1, 5, and 9-10 Speaking and Listening Standard 4; Grade 2 Speaking and Listening Standard 5). The poetry can inspire art entries as well (Speaking and Listening Standard 5) - just be sure to submit the art with its own entry form.

Poetry is an opportunity to practice English conventions (Language Standard 1 and 2). It's also an opportunity to explore the impact of informal language usage and various conventions (Language Standard 3) and nuances in word meanings (Language Standard 5).

Questions? Email