Young Environmental Writers Workshop Published Work

Scroll down the page to find completed work by students who are exploring nature as well as different ways to write about the environment. We have worked with a teacher and students from Montgomery Blair High School but we encourage other Montgomery County schools to get involved in this project.

A Light through Those Leaves

By Yanci Cueva

Yancey sizedI don't want to hear a phone ringing.

I just want to hear the birds tweeting.
There is a place that brings me calm
There is a place where a stream goes down.
The sound of the frogs singing and splashing
Can be heard from the end of a foggy trail
Where the view is wonderful and fantastic.
White rocks and lichen. Moss covered trees.

To witness this wonder is what a human needs.
Conifers and pine trees, swinging with the wind,
Make me feel delighted, make me feel the breeze.
The creatures hide from us
Raccoons, squirrels, and deer
They might think we don’t know
But the sounds they make we can hear.
Some trees have fallen, mostly the oldest
Oh, how much I love the deciduous forest.

It starts to rain, and I sit on a rock
Then I see the creek that is coming from the north.
As I cross the bridge I see many fish on the water,
These are swimming happily, like if nothing really matters.
Oh what a shrine I have found!

A divine silence clean, and clean water from the ground.
I love the song I am hearing. It’s the spring I’m seeing.
It comes from the roots of a tree
If you ask for a wish, it would give you three.

Finally, the cloudy sky disappears,
And I want to climb the highest tree.
I feel the warm sunlight coming through the leaves
No more rain falls. This is such a gift.
Anyways, I don’t want to go home tonight
I just want to keep seeing the light.

At the time this poem was written, Yanci Cueva was a senior at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD.

Little Bennett

By Edwin Abarca

20As I walked along the trail, I felt a vast emptiness.

It was quiet and many pine trees were on the ground.
But it gave a feeling of
Peace and friendliness,
A huge feeling that I could not
Turn down.
I had such a great view, like
I was on top of the world.
My phone camera would have
Made it last.
A huge field of leafless trees
My memory took the flash.
Beautiful Bennett.

At the time this poem was written, Edwin Abarca was a senior at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD.

Understanding Trees

By Lea Sanon

19Just because trees can’t talk
Doesn’t mean we can just them down
Doesn’t mean we can burn trees down
Doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.

Just because trees can’t talk
Doesn’t mean they don’t want to leave.
I see lots of beautiful trees
I smell pines.
I hear birds singing.
I feel a cold breeze.
I taste fresh air.
I think it’s paradise.
I don’t understand
Why people would want to destroy our parks,
Why some wild animals have to flee their habitats,
Why people can be so selfish.
But most of all,
Why humans cut trees down
Why we put others in danger of air pollution
Why we must throw litter on our local streets and parks.
What I understand most is
Why the wild animals love wandering around in the wilderness
Why it smells so fresh
Why the birds sing
Why water runs on tree roots.

At the time this poem was written, Lea Sanon was a senior at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD

Nature's Road

By Jennifer Martinez

Jennifer Little BennettNow we are heading back listening to the music of the creek. We begin our five minutes of silence, those five minutes we blend in with nature as I watch how nature’s roots reach out of the earth’s grip, thirsty for water. Then the thing we do best began; we speak and society comes back to us like a creeper with a sign that reads “parking up ahead.” Consecutively, the echoes of cars come and we are no longer alone, calling us back as if we never belonged in the first place. As we boarded our bus to ride back, I caught myself worrying about my shoes and how dirty they have gotten, oh so human I am being.

While on the road, our eyes hardly glance through the windows; instead we talk or analyze our phones. In this silence of mine, I thank God my phone is charging in the front because I would have never realized how hard-wired we are to society’s norms. It’s just fascinating because I am the same.

Today I saw a baby pine tree. I’ve never seen one before -- not even any other baby tree. I wouldn’t have ever stopped and looked for anything nature-related in Silver Spring because we have other deadlines to meet and places to go. But hey, I’m out of the “never seen a baby tree” category. A place like Little Bennett has always been one of my favorite places to settle, relax and wood air bathe, a term I learned today.
County parks are very important to our culture because we need to show younger generations to come and observe that we haven’t destroyed our land fully, even though industry might want to tear our parks down. Fresh air is a limited option within an urban environment, and parks are known for their fresh nature smell. One may notice after walking through a park that you feel happy or just relaxed? That’s wood air bathing. Walking through a big beautiful forest is an anti-depressant which makes even the grumpiest soul feel good. Parks hold many of our wild animals and they deserve a home just as much as we do.

On the ICC going 60 mph, it’s hard to catch things. But what catches my attention is not the road ahead but the ivy and how it creeps onto the ICC walls, just trying to take back what was once theirs.

Jennifer Martinez is a student at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD. She has been on two YEWW hikes.

My observations of our environment

By Zaevon Prince

Littering-facts-litter-on-streetOne thing that I have noticed about the environment from time to time is the littering issue. What I have come to see is that whether someone litters or not has a lot to do with the presence of others. For example, I have seen on numerous occasions someone shoot a piece of trash into a trash can as if it were a basketball and miss or just throw a simple piece of trash on the floor, like a water bottle or wrapper. The point is that these people that I have seen do this wouldn’t pick their trash up until somebody in the area sees them in the act and looks at them like, “Are you going to pick that up?” It’s as if the person who is littering is self-pressured into picking up their trash and putting it in its proper place. I think the simple way to fix this problem is to make signs with eyes on them and have them read: “We see you. Please pick up your trash,” with an arrow pointing to a trash can. This sign should be designed kind of like the Mona Lisa, where contact with the eyes on the sign is inevitable. This would add an extra sense of pressure on a person to go pick up that trash.

At the time this opinion piece was written, Zaevon Prince was a senior at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD.

Why does it keep snowing?

By Dereck Luong

Dereck LuongLooking through the window
Pouring cereal in a bowl.
Outside there is a lot of snow.
I wonder if this is a prank.
Don’t think so.
Wait a minute. This is May.
It’s freezing and the gas pipe blew up yesterday..
Should I pray or just keep eating?
The sky got so bright even with an absence of the sun
Ring Ring Ring…
My boss tells me to go to work.
The sun is not even up.
Then why should I show up for work?
Oh yes. Money

At the time this was written, Dereck Luong was as senior at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD.

A Letter to the Montgomery County Council

Dear Montgomery County Council:

AiyanaSometimes it’s good to get away from all the city noise. Sugarloaf and Little Bennett are great places for people to get away from stress, or just go there to enjoy nature. It’s important to protect these places because without natural forests and parks our county would be in poor condition. I feel like everyone would be in a better mood if they could go to these places. Being around nature calms you down. We have to protect the parks because once they’ve gone, they’re gone, and you can’t get those natural places back.

I’ve been on a few hikes with Conservation Montgomery at Blair HS. Living in Montgomery County can feel very cramped and overwhelming. For me, getting out of the busy city is a stress reliever. Whenever I go to the parks I feel like I can breathe better and the stress just lifts off of me. Keeping these parks in their natural state is important so people can go and get away from their problems.


Aiyana Chery

At the time this was written, Aiyana Chery was a 9th grade student at Montgomery Blair High School.

A View from Sugarloaf Mountain

By Yoel Weldegiorgis

YoelOur hike at Sugarloaf was my second hike in my 18 years of life and it was really beautiful. We went up to the mountain. Before we walked a lot we saw a huge rock and the panorama from that rock was really great. We saw everything from the top of that rock; we experienced bird's eye view. We could see the forests and also a far-away mountain on the other side. I felt like I was on top of the Empire State Building looking at New York City except that this was a park that was quiet, peaceful, fresh, green, and perfect-looking. We took pictures taken on that beautiful environment. We viewed the other mountains with the binoculars that we borrowed from Ms. Barnes and it was beautiful.

I wasn’t a fan of nature before but after I went on the two hike- the first at Rachel Carson Trail, which was also a great one-- my whole view of nature has changed. I became more interested in nature, in its beauty, in its freshness, in its peace, in the way that it relaxes, in the happiness that it brings. It was peaceful until I heard a gunshot. That gunshot shattered the peace into pieces; it was too loud and too scary. I felt like some bomb was dropped on the mountain. Some people were hunting. It was the first time I heard a gunshot. I never thought it would be this loud. It was loud as a lion’s roar. It was also the first time some of my friends heard a gunshot. But then we went on. We passed through the beautiful trees, and we saw different kinds of plants. Everything was green. I learned about ferns in school but I saw them up close Sugarloaf Mountain.

On our way back to the bus, we saw a beautiful gigantic white rock. The top of that rock was the summit. I really felt like ascending that enormous rock and see what the summit looks like and what it feels to be there but we didn’t have time to go up to it. My friend and I were talking about it, about how beautiful it is and how to ascend it, and looked at it for a long time since it was perfect. I hope I’ll climb up to the summit one day.

At the time this was written, Yoel Weldegiorgis was a senior at Montgomery Blair High School.

Sugarloaf Hike

By Aiyana Chery

I always love going on the hikes Ms. Mathews takes us on with Conservation Montgomery because I feel so connected to nature -- on the Sugarloaf Mountain trails especially. It feels like you’re isolated from the busy everyday world. As I’m sitting here on this quartzite rock writing, I cannot hear anything that connects me to the hectic streets of Silver Spring -- no sounds of cars honking, or the chattering from people. It is peaceful and quiet.

October is the perfect time for a hike up the Sunrise Trail. The feeling of crisp, cool air against your cheeks and hearing the crunch of the leaves under your feet is so relaxing, as are the sounds of the animals speaking and the wind whistling -- so many sounds you don’t get to hear on a daily basis because we’re all so tuned into our own little world.  Up above in the 1,200 feet elevation of the summit, the air is cleaner. If you are ever stressed and feel overwhelmed, I suggest that you go on a hike and see the beautiful nature that is right under your nose.

Montgomery-Blair High School student Aiyana Chery wrote this in 2016. She is pictured in the foreground of the photo with her reporter's notebook and pen in hand. 

Alexandra Happy Sugarloaf Hike

By Alexandra Happy

Keep going, they say.
But my legs hurt.
Come on up, they say.
But my legs hurt.
Through the rocks, they urge.
But my legs hurt.
When will we stop?
When will this trail end?
Never, never until you go all the way to the top.
Never, never until the trees get shorter
and touch your shoulders.
Keep moving through the rocks.
You won’t fall or drop
if you keep yourself low to the ground.
The more I go up, the more I feel hot.
My sweat is dripping on the back of my coat.
My throat is as dry as a turkey at Thanksgiving dinner.
I huff and puff up the hills and through the rocks.
Please tell me when we will stop!
Never, never, they say, until we reach the top.
Until we hear the crickets and see the deer.
Never, never, they say, until we reach the top.

Once we reach the top, the pain goes away.
I am on top of the world and never want to leave.
Never, never would I want to go back down.
I am in my own Alice in Wonderland.
The stink bugs, spiders, and deer become my special friends.
Never ever would I want to leave Sugarloaf.

Rock Creek Trail

By Mirian Fuentes

February- Sun says hello and good morning,
reminding everyone to wake up
even the dead trees
Sun brings life
Trying to light everything that is in front,
in every corner, every leaf, tree, and insect.

February- Trees accompany each other,
swinging from left to right,
wake up, wake up
they say don’t give up.

February- Trees look different
Their patterns all look different
Like the ridges in our fingers
They all have one thing that makes them unique
One thing that makes them individual.

Rock Creek in Winter

By Oumou Hann

February Sun
Brown everywhere
Green moss
A hill going.

My First Hike

By: Diane Dao

This was the first hike in my life
Before, I had always thought it would be so much work and tiring
But when I actually experienced it, I felt like I had reunited with the world of nature to which I was born in, not in a world of technology
My life has been so consumed with technology
I rarely wanted to go outside
Even my first hike day was windy and cold
I enjoyed every single moment of it with my friends, with nature, with the world
I enjoyed the sounds of the gentle water trickling down a cliff and into the river when we went further into the hike
I never noticed the sounds of many singing birds and there were so many different cheerful sounds
The adult leaves were dancing high above while the children leaves ran and danced around my feet
It was such a beautiful life to see
I felt entirely refreshed, relaxed, reborn
Every time I step outside, I now felt anew
My true self lies within nature

February, cold

By Kimberlie Phung

February, cold
The landscape over the hill
While the winds give a slight chill
Yet nature is still

February, cold
White clouds in the blue sky
As cars drive pass by

February, cold
Leaves on the ground
As our feet make a crunching sound

February, cold
All the trees are bare
Everywhere you go makes you want to stop and stare.


The taste of nature
The taste of the Creek’s feature

The feeling of relief
The feeling of disbelief

The noise of my breath
The noise of my steps

The sight of the colorful leaves
The sight of the bare trees

The smell of the fresh air
The smell of leaving Blair.

Rock Creek Trail

By Alexandra Happy

Rock Creek Trail I’ve been inside you.
I’ve walked up your trail while going through the dead leaves,
The dead leaves that fall off these skinny, tall, thick trees.
I see some green which the sun beans off
But mainly I see some brown hanging, gone, waiting to be released
Released onto the ground and down to the bottom of my shoe
I’ve felt your presence which you wrap around me with the wind
You protect me with breathing in clean air and not hearing the troubles out there
When I am inside you
I am alone
I am free
My mind escapes those tall buildings and fills it with these tall trees
You are not easy to go inside of with having me
Huff and puff
But I love it because you fill my heart with every heartbeat
And once I leave I will remember Rock Creek
Not tonight
Not tomorrow
But for as long as I live
Rock Creek Trail
I Have

Hiking Beyond the Classroom

By Michael Hernandez

Rachel Carson, an American marine biologist, author, and conservationist was an important figure in bringing awareness to the global environment movement. She was hired by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries to write radio scripts during the Depression and also contributed to feature articles on natural history for the Baltimore Sun. She began a 15-year working adventure in federal service as a scientist and then editor in 1936 and later rose to become Editor-in-Chief of all publications for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
On May 26, one day before Carson’s birthday, I had the honor and privilege to visit Rachel Carson Conservation Park. This park is one of the county's most valued conservation areas and best natural areas with more than 6 miles of natural surface trails for hiking. My classmates and I were guided by members of Conservation Montgomery and we were able to hike through the premises of this beautiful park. We had the opportunity to observe, inhale the fresh and pure air, and reflect on what we had seen.
This hike provided an experience I cannot get sitting in a high school classroom. In the normal classroom setting, we aren’t instructed on the terminology necessary to become expert hikers. During this hike I was able to learn about different plants and species residing at the Rachel Carson Conservation Park. I was able to identify a poison ivy plant and invasive plants like the Bitter Sweet. The group also had the opportunity to enjoy the pleasant aroma of Mugworts located around the park. Furthermore, we were greeted by many surprises such as a large white cave and frogs segregated around a magnificent green pond.
Rachel Carson left an admirable legacy and the park created in her name is no exception. It’s personally one of my favorite parks in the county because I was able to observe, connect, and reflect with nature. Sometimes we just need a space to connect one on one with the environment and this hike was a fantastic experience.

February Air

By Aiyana Chery

February air
Crunchy leaves leading into the distance
Sun setting,
Peaking out between the trees

February air
Tall trees, dead trees
Nothing but silence and my thoughts.

Reflections on Our Hike

By Jonathan Benaye

Sugarloaf Mountain was saturated with a plethora of flora and fauna. The mountain sprouted trees at every corner and seemed to slow down its production the closer we had gotten to the peak. The animals did not seem to mind our presence; the deer watched us, standing still for a few moments, and then returning to their activities. We were objects that stood out from the background, but we did not significantly change their daily life. The animals had frequent visitors and soon, homosapiens became commonplace. The woodland was also abundant in smaller, equally important animal life; insects. Pholcidae moved slowly, like statues that had come alive for a special occasion, stalking some invisible prey. Crickets and cicadas rubbed their wings proudly, making sure their music was heard by all. The smaller birds on the mountaintop were seen bouncing around the tree limbs, while the larger birds were heard cawing and laughing from afar. Rocks were balanced by a mysterious a mysterious forced, one leaning on the other. Sugarloaf Mountain has taken its place in Maryland, in America, in the world.

Montgomery-Blair High School student Jonathan Benaye wrote this piece in 2016.

Experimenting with Editorial Writing

Prompt for the Students: Write an editorial or a letter to the editor of a newspaper. Let’s pretend that a builder has approached the Strong Foundation and has offered them $10 million dollars to buy Sugarloaf and land around it to turn it into a massive development project. The development would take away all the acres of nature that you see and would jeopardize the Ag Reserve nearby. Write an editorial about why this should not happen.

Even though 10 million dollars is a lot, it’s not worth it. It is important to preserve the forests and natural environment since they help with air pollution. Some people go to Sugarloaf Mountain to relax and enjoy the view. Sugarloaf has some private land where some people live to enjoy the land. When we went by, even though it was fast, we saw the beauty of the Ag Reserve.
- By Oumou Hann

To: The Strong Foundation, owners of Sugarloaf Mountain
I am aware that a builder has approached you and offered you $10 million to buy the mountain and land around it and turn it into a massive development project. This development would cause all acres of nature to be destroyed, which is horrible! Many natural areas like Little Bennett and the trails there have historical significance. For example, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited there and relaxed at Sugarloaf Mountain. When I went to these places, it was very quiet and peaceful. I felt very relaxed and isolated from the noise and crowds of the world. If you destroy all the acres of nature, you would be destroying the ecosystem as well as the community’s places of escape. Also, destroying the trees causes a decrease in air quality. These are just a few reasons why you shouldn’t take nature’s acres and destroy them by turning this land into a massive development project.
- By Kimberlie Phung

February Wood

By Jonathan Benaye

The lungs of the city. These very words are used to describe the life sustaining power of Central Park which is enclosed by tall man-made buildings and bustling crowds. Rock Creek Park plays a similar role within the D.C./Maryland region. It provides miles of flora and fauna that are capable of absorbing the carbon dioxide we breathe into the atmosphere every second of every day, and transforms it into oxygen and chemical nutrients that power the cycle. This system has been present for hundreds of years and hopefully will continue for hundreds more. Nature is underrated when it comes to the strange and amazing things it withholds between its leafy bushes and deeply rooted tree trunks. The poem below only highlights the tip of what we experienced on our journey:

February Wood
A cemetery scene with lots of dead trees
February Wood
Wide holes disrupt the woody pattern
February Wood
Straight attentive trees, curves make up the minority
February Wood
Forked branches hold the stringy green vines
February Wood
Leafy carpet, home to little creatures
February Wood
Birds chirping, others tweeting
February Wood
The woods remains constant in this bustling forest.

A Hike to Remember

By Kimberlie Phung

On Friday May 26, 2017, Green Club members went on a hike to Rachel Carson Conservation Park. This was a surprising day to participate in the hike because this was the day before Carson’s birthday. While strolling through the Conservation Park, I noticed the bright green meadows. I heard the birds chirping, and I felt the wind blowing against my skin. This was a beautiful sight of course, but we had to beware of the poison ivy and the mud from the rain of the previous day. As we hiked through the conservation park, we stopped by a fascinating pond. In the pond, I could see the reflection of the trees in the water, the lily pads on the surface, and the toads jumping in. This hiking experience is one that I will always look back on because it was dedicated to the well-known “American marine biologist, author, and conservationist,” Rachel Carson. Her famous book, Silent Spring, is acknowledged as the beginning of the environmental movement. Carson was passionate about marine life, the damage of chemical substances, and the overall route to contemporary scientific studies. I am grateful to be given the chance to adventure the Rachel Carson Conservation Park; this was certainly a hike to remember!

The work on this page was generated by the Conservation Montgomery Young Environmental Writers (YEW) Workshop. We publish various forms of environmental writing by local high school students who participated in this project funded by a grant from the Ohio-based Green Shanny Foundation. Read more about the YEW project in this CM e-newsletter.