West Branch School graduate wins national essay contest

Emily Redmond, a 2012 graduate of West Branch School, currently an eighth grader at Park Forest Middle School in State College, wrote the winning essay in the 2014-15 Walden Woods Live Deliberately Essay contest (13-14 year old category.)

Redmond’s essay, “Seeing is Not Necessarily Understanding,” was the culminating activity of an independent study project which included reading Henry David Thoreau’s seminal book “Walden.” The independent study was designed by Redmond and her mother Jessica, a teacher, and was facilitated by PFMS Learning Enrichment teacher Howard Pillot.

As part of the Live Deliberately Essay contest, student writers were asked to use their understanding of a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Journal and the narrative of the image Cooler and Jeans from Oscar Palacio, and to then discuss and expand the quote while integrating their experiences and observations. Redmond’s winning essay can be read at worldwidewaldens.org.

The essay contest was in partnership with the Walden Woods Project/Thoreau Institute and the deCordova Sculpture Park both of Lincoln, Massachusetts. The Walden Woods Project/Thoreau Institute, which is located a short distance from Walden Pond, brings together conservationists, activists, Thoreau historians and education specialists to help bring Thoreau’s ideas to young people and spark environmental action. It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the land, legacy and literature of Henry David Thoreau and fostering an ethic of environmental stewardship and social responsibility. It was founded in 1990 by Eagles musician and recording artist Don Henley.

The deCordova Sculpture Park is located on the former estate of Julian de Cordova, the self-educated son of a Jamaican merchant. The Museum and Sculpture Park encompasses 30 acres of woodlands and lawns, and is the largest park of its kind in New England.

Redmond first got interested in environmental issues when, as a student at West Branch School, she worked with Monarch butterflies, and then when she went to Camp Susque with the school. She is currently part of a State College High School group working with Penn State University faculty conducting water quality studies in Centre County streams and waterways. Redmond is also an amateur astronomer, and she sings in choir and plays double bass in the orchestra and jazz band.

The winning essay can be viewed at www.world widewaldens.org.