Yesterday, Regina, of the Kinfolk News blog, shared an excellent essay written by her son. Entitled “What Freedom Means to Me,” her son discusses the gift of freedom, and tells of attending his father’s naturalization ceremony and how he felt watching his father become a United States citizen. It is moving, well-written, and very patriotic, especially considering that it was written by an 8th grader!

I hope that my own daughter writes as well one day.

This got me thinking that Regina’s son should put his talent to work and start submitting essays to the various contests sponsored by the DAR and SAR. I was going to simply email the information to her, but decided instead to share it here, in case there are others out there with talented kid-writers in the family!


The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) sponsor several contests for young people:

  • American History Essay Contest: All students in grades 5, 6, 7, and 8, attending public, private, or parochial school, or those who are home schooled, are eligible. The 2009-2010 topic is, “The Completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad.” Deadline for submission is November 25, 2009.

    Describe how you felt on May 10, 1869, when the golden spike was driven at Promontory Summit, Utah, to celebrate the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Pretend you are either a settler planning to use the train to travel to your new home in the West, an Irish or Chinese worker who helped build the line, or a Native American whose way of life was greatly affected by the railroad.

  • Christopher Columbus Essay Contest: This contest is open to students in grades 9 through 12 in public, private, or parochial schools, or those who are home schooled. The topic for 2009-2010 is, “Discuss and analyze the early influences and experiences of Christopher Columbus and how these contributed to successes and failures in his voyages of exploration.” Deadline for submission is November 25, 2009.
  • Junior American Citizens (JAC) Contests: The JAC contest is open to all preschool through 12th grade students in public, private, and parochial schools, and in sanctioned home study programs in the categories: gifted, general and special needs. All grades, pre-school through 12, are encouraged to participate; however, pre-school and kindergarten students may participate only in the banner and group community service project contests. Youth groups such as scout troops, C.A.R. societies, and service organizations, as well as schools, may participate in the contests. The 2009-2010 National Theme is, “America, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.” Deadline for submission is February 1, 2010.

Contest categories:

POSTER: Design a poster using the theme. Maximum size: 22″ x 28″. Minimum size: 8 ½” x 11″. Original art work only. Do not attach essays. Posters may be laminated or placed in a plastic protective sleeve. Posters may be rolled or folded for mailing, so no rigid materials, please.

STAMP DESIGN: Design a postal stamp using the theme. Original art work only. Exact size: 5″ X 7″ drawn in the center of an 8 ½” X 11″ sheet of WHITE paper. The paper should be white because the vast majority of envelopes are white, thus the stamp design is viewed in the way it would actually be used. Designs may be laminated or placed in a sleeve, if desired, but no folders, please.

BANNER: Working in groups of at least three, design a banner using the theme. Size: Use a 1:3 ratio. The maximum size is 16″ X 48″/ Banners may be paper or fabric, but may be rolled or folded during mailing, so no rigid material, please. If the banner has support rods, do not submit them. Objects attached to banners should be glued or sewn on securely. For the safety of the judges, do not use straight or safety pins.

PHOTOGRAPHIC ESSAY: The student will submit not more than 25 color photographs illustrating the theme. The photographs should be mounted with glue stick on 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper, and bound in a three-brad composition folder. Brief captions may appear on each page. The first page of the folder should be a title page that includes the student’s name, address, and the title of the essay.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Entries should consist of not more than 15 color photographs with a descriptive text of 500 words or less. Identify all photographs with captions. Entries should be placed in a three-hole punched, three-brad binder.

POEM: Write an original poem, any style, of 300 words or less. Entries should be on 8 ½ X 11 inch paper, either ruled or plain. Poems may be placed in a plastic sleeve for protection.

SHORT STORY: Write an original short story of 500 words or less. The story may be written from the first person or third person point of view. Entries should be on 8 ½ X 11 inch paper, either ruled or plain. Short stories may be placed in a plastic sleeve for protection.

For details about any of these contests, you can contact a DAR chapter near you. In California, visit and click on Chapters. Outside California, go to and click on Membership > State and Chapter Web Sites (on right navbar). You are also welcome to contact me for more information. I’d be happy to give you more information and point you in the right direction. Note: the DAR contests are conducted without regard to race, religion, sex, or national origin.


The Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) also offer some opportunities for young people:

  • Americanism Poster Contest: The National Society Elementary School Poster Contest was developed to help stimulate interest in American History in support of the 4th or 5th grade curriculum. If American History is taught in lower grades at selected schools, an entry may be accepted for the competition. The 2009-2010 theme is, “Battle of Bunker Hill.” Deadline for submission is June 1, 2010.
  • The George S. & Stella M. Knight Essay Contest: This contest is open to students in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade attending public, parochial, or private high schools (including accredited home schools). The topic of the essay shall deal with: an event, person, philosophy, or ideal associated with the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, or the framing of the United States Constitution. Detailed contest information is available here.

Entries for these SAR contests should be submitted through a local chapter. In California, visit and click on Locate a Chapter. Click on Education and Youth Programs for more information about the contests. In other states, go to > Membership > District & Society Web Sites. Contest information can be found under Education/Youth.


If you need assistance locating a DAR or SAR chapter, or if you have any questions about these contests, please contact me. You do not have to be a member of DAR/SAR in order for your child to participate.

Good luck!

UPDATE: The Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.) also offers several contests for kids involving poetry, essays, and art; however, participants must be members of the C.A.R. For membership information, please visit, or, or contact me.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal
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