When Sloane Tucker, 11, had to write a poem for a classroom assignment, it did not take her long to decide that she wanted to make fishing the focus of her piece. But like any good poet, Tucker's fishing poem was not really about fishing — it was about something far more important.
"My dad has always been my inspiration, so I like to write about things that we do together, and we go fishing together," said Tucker, a fifth grade student at Spring Hill Elementary School in McLean.
Tucker's poem struck a chord with "Pine Tree Poetry," an organization dedicated to inspiring school-age children to write poetry. It was selected for publication in the annual "Pine Tree Poetry Collection," along with the poems of 10 other students from Spring Hill Elementary School.
"Spring Hill Elementary School students had more of their poems selected for publication than any school in Virginia, so the school library will receive a $500 check," said Ruth Donahue, news liaison for Spring Hill Elementary.
However, writing poetry is no new feat for Sloane. When she was a fourth grade student, she wrote a 26-page book of poetry.
"I love it," she said. "I really like rhyming."
Bianca Bowman's poem was also selected for the "Pine Tree Poetry Collection," and like Tucker's, it was also about a good relationship with a parent.
"It's called 'The Best Mom Ever,'" said Bowman.
Bowman's acrostic poem uses the word "mother" as its base, and Bowman said it had quite the impact on the woman who inspired it.
"She cried when she read it," said Bowman, who has started to keep a book of her collected poems.
Fourth grader Sarah Falls, 10, wrote "My Pets," a poem about animals that she would like to own. Falls said that her poetry had never won anything prior to the Pine Tree Poetry contest, but that she has written poems in the past.
"Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's hard," said Falls of writing poetry. "Sometimes I get stuck on a word, and other times I just get an idea and I just have to write it down right away."
The 11 students selected for publication in the Pine Hill Poetry Collection are a mix of third, fourth and fifth grade students at Spring Hill. Their poems range in style and subject matter. Some of the topics covered in the students' poems are the Civil War, hot dogs and rafting.
Fifth grader Stephanie DuBois, 10, said her teacher instructed her class to write about the Civil War.
"We had been studying and preparing for the SOL's [Standards of Learning]," said DuBois. "If you can get the right words to rhyme, it's not that hard."
Third grader Blake Mintz, 9, wrote a poem about different foods. He was straightforward about his reason for choosing that particular topic.
"I really like eating," he said.
Over the next few weeks, the 11 winning poets will be featured on the "Spring Hill Morning Show."
"They'll read their original poem to the entire school," said Donahue.
Not all of the students are thrilled about their sudden fame.
"It's kind of embarrassing to read your poem in front of a lot of people," said fourth grader Rhea Sharma, 9.
Fifth grader Gabrielle Schleppenbach, 10, also gets nervous when she has to read her poem aloud to an audience.
"I try to look at my friends and pretend that I'm just talking to them," she said. "It's sort of hard."