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(Enlarge) Students from Manor View Elementary School "dive in" to eat the desserts of other competitors and ones they made themselves after winners from each grade category were announced during the Edible Art Contest. The competition, which attracted more than 50 competitors, had "winners" in each age category. (Photo by Maj. Sonise Lumbaca)

Manor View Elementary School's first Edible Art Competition combined creativity with confections. The competition room was filled with the smell of sweet things to eat, the bright colors of the "art" and the excited squeals of children.

The contest on April 6 was part of the school's Book Fair, which ran from April 5-8. More than 50 students from kindergarten to high school participated in the competition. There was an adult category as well.

Laura Kooyman, art teacher and Parent Teacher Association president for Manor View Elementary, came up with the idea.

"My daughter's middle school, Arbutus, holds a contest every year for their students during Youth Art Month (in March)," Kooyman said. "My daughter won last year when she was in 4th grade at the community contest and I thought with the talent we have in our school, the kids would get a real kick out of it."

Before, the school had held an ice cream social for Family Book Fair Night. However, Kooyman thought the edible contest, with its mostly dessert-like theme, would be the perfect opportunity to introduce the competition instead of the ice cream social.

Since this was the first year the school had hosted the competition, extra planning and preparation for the participating students were required.

"I spent one week showing the kids examples of other edible art and we talked about what materials they could use for 'glue' and what the examples were made of so they'd have ideas," Kooyman said.

Kooyman said she believes competitions like this help children with their development in life in general.

"Experimenting with new materials to develop creative problem-solving skills and confidence in creative self-expression are essential to success," she said.

"I think [the competition] was great and the children had a lot of fun with it," said Caroline Saladino, a Manor View Elementary music teacher and judge for the art competition. "It was a good community builder."

Although there were "winners" for each age category, Kooyman believes that everyone who participated was a winner.

"I think that since everyone was able to enjoy the 'fruits of their labor' by digging in, there were no sore losers. Kids and adults were impressed with every project and supportive. I think this helped emphasize that the creative process is every bit as important as the final product," she said.

"The best part of the evening was seeing the kids be so proud of their work. It was so precious." said Saladino.

After judging the competitors, their parents and spectators enjoyed the submissions. Judging by the smiles on everyone's face, the event was deemed such a success that Kooyman hopes the school hosts a competition as a regular, annual event.

"Especially now that people have seen [the competition] and 'get it'...and our 5th graders who won this year will probably be back as middle school contestants next year," she said.

Lumbaca is the Public Affairs Officer for the Asymmetric Warfare Group.

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