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Creative Writing Contest for Bernards Township & Bernardsville Students
$500 Scholarship Available for High School Students

“Bernards Township’s 600-year-old white oak, believed to be the oldest in the nation, will be cut down. . . .”
(Star-Ledger, March 5, 2017)

Tree Views Essay

Introducing “TREE-VIEWS”Essay Contest

To honor the 600-year old white oak tree in Basking Ridge—soon to be taken down—The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills (THSSH),  is sponsoring “Tree-Views writing contest for public and private school students in grades K through 12 in Bernards Township and Bernardsville. The top prize to the High School winner will be a $500 scholarship.

“Tree-Views” encourages students to consider the perspective of the historic white oak as it stood through six centuries of local history. What events might the tree have “seen,” what people might have passed by its branches, what activities might have taken place near the tree? Writing through the “persona” of the tree, students may choose any variety of genres: essay, poem, fictitious news article, short story. Students in grades K-1 may present pictorial “stories” of the tree’s observations.Submissions will be judged by a panel of local educators and members of THSSH Board of Trustees.

All submitted essays will be gathered into a bound keepsake book which will be made available in the future, along with all of the William Annin school t-shirt tree images from their recent contest.

Here's a great example of a historic oaks life

In addition to participation certificates for all students, THSSH will award prizes for winning submissions: $500 for the high school winner, $50 for the middle school winner, gift certificate for one elementary school winner, participation certificate for K-1 entries. Winners will be announced before the Bernards Township Charter Day festivities on May 20, and winners will be invited to read their submissions to an audience on Charter Day.

A great example of our contest - The book Oak Tree Grows

A great example for inspiration! - C. Brian Karas As an Oak Tree Grows

We're hoping you will write a story about your favorite historic moment
as the Basking Ridge Great White Oak tree.

The deadline for submissions is May 1, 2017.

5 W's - Rubric

WHO?  Public & private school students in Basking Ridge & Bernardsville, grades K-12
WHAT?  “The tree stands approximately 100 feet tall. The circumference of its trunk is 18 feet. It has a branch spread of roughly 150 feet. The white oak has stood witness to history.”  (Star-Ledger, March 5, 2017)

  • Write a creative piece entitled “Tree-Views: (Year/Event)” that tells a story of a specific event in Bernards Township history that the tree might have “witnessed” from its vantage point in the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church yard.
  • Choose any event and/or time in the history of Bernards Township to write about.
  • Choose a writing genre: essay, short story, poem, fictitious news article, etc.
  • Middle School & High School students are encouraged to base their writing on specific research. The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills, located in the Brick Academy on West Oak Street in Basking Ridge, has an excellent collection of archival materials that students may consult. To make a ”brainstorming ideas” appointment or a research appointment, contact THSSH Trustee Meg Wastie at 201-572-5390). Other academic research sources are also advised. (Wikipedia references will not be accepted)
  • Students in grades K-1 may submit pictorial “stories” as their submissions accompanied by some writing

WHERE? Bernards Township & Bernardsville, NJ


  • Deadline for submissions is May 1, 2017 (Online or to the appropriate supervisor)
  • Winners will be announced prior to Charter Day celebrations on Saturday, May 20, 2017

To commemorate the historic tree, to be honored for academic excellence & to win financial awards & gift prizes

  • One winning entry in the High School division (grades 9-12) will receive a $500 scholarship
  • One winning entry in the Middle School division (grades 6-8) will receive $50
  • Winning entries in the Elementary School division (grades 2-5) & Primary School division (grades K-1) will receive gift certificates
  • All students taking part in the contest will receive Certificates of Participation


  • Bernards Township Language Arts Supervisors: (Amanda Hughes, Elementary; Dave Hunscher, Language Arts supervisor K-12; Kristin Fox, Social Studies supervisor K-12). For questions, to make a ”brainstorming ideas” appointment, or to make a research appointment, contact THSSH Trustee Meg Wastie at 201-572-5390.

Mail Submission:

Submissions must be postmarked or submitted online by May 1, 2017.
One entry per student. Note that all submissions will become the property of THSSH who may use the entries to create a commorative album to share with the community. If you do not agree, please do not submit.

Download and complete the physical entry form (DOWNLOAD), add your printed essay and mail to:

c/o Meg Wastie,
15 West Oak Street,
Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

Online Submission:

Please complete all fields, upload your files, and click SUBMIT. You should recevieve a confirmation email to print. If you do NOT receive an email, the form did NOT complete.

One entry per student. Note that all submissions will become the property of THSSH who may use the entries to create a commorative album to share with the community. If you do not agree, please do not submit.

Submitted: March 13, 2017

About the Historical Society of the Somerset Hills (THSSH)

Founded in 1928 originally as the Historical Society of Basking Ridge, the mission and name of the society was later changed to The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization including all five communities of the Somerset Hills region: Bedminster Township, Bernards Township, Bernardsville ,Far Hills, Peapack-Gladstone which are all located in Somerset County, New Jersey.

The mission of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills (THSSH) is to acquire, conserve and share local artifacts and information on matters of local historic interest; cultivate interest in local history; encourage the preservation of local historic resources; facilitate historic research; and preserve, operate, and interpret the Brick Academy.

To further this mission, THSSH sponsors events and activities that promote community awareness and appreciation of the history and architecture of the Somerset Hills. THSSH headquarters is at the Brick Academy in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards Township, where our collections of items of local historic interest are available to the public.

About The Brick Academy

BR_Brick_Academy_Sketch_08_sm.jpgThe Brick Academy (also known as the Basking Ridge Classical Schoolhouse) is a 1809 Federal-style architectural structure located in the center of Basking Ridge in Bernards Township. The Brick Academy has been a boys’ private preparatory school, a public school, a meeting hall for several fraternal and benevolent organizations, and the Bernards Township municipal building. It currently serves as the headquarters of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills, as well as a schoolhouse and museum to local history. The Brick Academy also celebrated its bicentennial in 2009.


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