Youth Story Contest

Tell your ocean story in poetry or film.


Congratulations to our 2022 finalists and prizewinners, who received their prizes at the Youth Story Awards Ceremony June 12 at Tacoma Ocean Fest. See their work here.

2022 Theme: Many Voices. One Ocean. One Planet.

The ocean is beautiful. Astonishing animals, underwater worlds, light, color, sound. And it’s right here on our doorstep: the misty, cold Salish Sea.
But it’s also threatened, by plastic pollution, climate change, species extinction.
Many Voices. We all need the ocean for oxygen, food, water and climate. Some of us are hurt much more than others when it is harmed. And our non-human relatives living underwater need it the most. We need environmental justice. (Scroll to learn more.)
One Ocean. We all share the ocean, and together we can care for it – for ourselves and each other. The ocean doesn’t divide countries and cultures, but joins them.
One Earth. Ocean problems are Earth problems. There is no planet B. The time is now to act, and protect our ocean for everyone on the planet.  

Middle and high school students who live or learn in Pierce County are eligible to participate. (Includes private, public, Tribal and homeschoolers.)

The Youth Story Contest is closed for 2022. We will open next year’s in January 2023!

girl with phone

Categories (enter in one or both):

  • Poetry (500 words or less)
  • Film (TikTok-style reel, 3 minutes or less)
boy writing

Divisions (only enter in one):

  • High school (grades 9-12)
  • Middle school (grades 6-8)

Read the rules & rubric before you submit.


ALL ENTRIES: A personal pizza coupon and an Ocean Fest sticker (via your sponsor/school)
ALL FINALISTS: Reading/screening work live at Tacoma Ocean Fest and online.
WINNERS announced live at Tacoma Ocean Fest, June 12, 2022

FIRST PLACE: High School $150; Middle School $100
SECOND PLACE: High School $100; Middle School $75
THIRD PLACE: High School and Middle School $50

Mike Coots photo of hammerhead shark

Get Inspired

How do you create a poem or reel? Start with something that inspires you.
– an ocean animal, bird or plant
scientific data or research
– a personal ocean experience
– a local place or person
– a global issue: climate change, pollution, species extinction, environmental justice (all people treated fairly under environmental laws)
– a local issue: fossil fuels, chemicals, orcas, salmon…

beach walk

Then Learn!

Our free marine biologist-led beach walks and poetry and film workshops are coming March 2022! Get the sign up link on our Resources page, plus how-tos on poetry, filmmaking and ocean science; school standards and more.
Ask your teacher or librarian for more help.

girl and turtle hatchling on beach

Finally, create…

A poem, 500 words or less. Combine imagery and metaphor. Be daring. Explode your words and ideas. Change the world.

A reel, under 3 minutes. TikTok-style, a sequence or single clip. Use text on screen and audio to surprise, inspire, motivate change. Be different.

Lead Sponsor

Rotary Sunrise Club of Tacoma

With support from Rotary 8 – thank you!

Other sponsors and partners: