Marine artist and conservationist Wyland has a unique way of teaching kids to love and cherish the environment. I saw this firsthand during an ocean festival in Florida last year where my daughters and about two dozen other kids painted a mural with the renowned artist. Wyland encouraged the kids to think about their favorite features of the ocean environment, be it a marine animal, or a wave, or a patch of seaweed. Then he let the kids paint, stepping in every now and again to turn their random brushstrokes into a masterpiece. In the end, these kids, with the artist's help, had created an amazing mural that depicted everything they loved about the ocean. 

Wyland has inspired thousands of kids to think about the ocean in this way — really visualizing it as a living, breathing environment and capturing its beauty through art. For the past several years, the artist has hosted an art contest to encourage kids to think about the economic, cultural, and aesthetic resources of the world's oceans.

Wyland Foundation ocean painting with two students

Mural by Bergen County Academies

The Wyland Foundation recently announced the winners of the 2014 contest in which more than 3,500 students from 40 states participated. The contest encouraged students to explore human impact on the global ocean ecosystem. Students painted murals in groups or classrooms and individuals entered artwork depicting a range of marine habitats. 

Wyland Foundation ocean painting

Mural by Westpine Middle School

It's amazing to see the connection these kids have with the world's oceans, and how they are able to use their art to tell their story about why ocean conservation is so important.  

Wyland Foundation ocean painting

Mural by Tabernacle Elementary School

Planning is already underway for next year's mural and individual art challenge. The theme will be "Our Coast and Climate." The Wyland Foundation even gives away 100 free 5 x 8 foot mural canvases to schools in need so that all interested students can participate. So if you think your school might be interested, go check out the Wyland Foundation art contest site to learn more about contest rules and find out how you can put your school's name in the hat for a free mural kit.

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