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Whiz Kid: Nathan Christensen Wins PBS Writing Contest

Whiz Kid is a Patch column featuring local school-aged children who are assets to the community.

Nathan Christensen, 11, a resident of Lake Ridge, traveled to Harrisonburg on May 11 to read his short story “Huskoo and the Whale” for a taping at Virginia’s Public Television (WVPT), an affiliate of Public Broadcasting Service. 

Nathan won first place in the fifth grade division of WVPT’s PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest.  Nationally, the contest is open to students in grades K-3, but in Virginia, fourth and fifth graders are eligible to participate. 

Although initially nervous at the prospect of reading his story in front of a camera crew, Nathan, a bright-eyed, dark haired boy, enjoyed the experience.

He said, “The best part was reading the story and being videotaped.”

The Christensens first heard about the contest during a WVPT commercial break. 

“We had no idea what to expect," said Nathan's mother Natalie. "He hadn’t entered a contest before.  We were pleased with the result.”

Bly Brown, Education Specialist at WVPT, said 326 students from grades K-5 participated in the contest this year. 

Though Nathan and his family received news that he won the contest in early April, first and second place winners in each division were announced in Harrisonburg during an awards ceremony on May 24. 

Nathan received a commemorative plaque and his story will be entered in the statewide KIDS GO! Writers Contest.  The Christensen family will be notified in early June if Nathan’s story is selected.

Natalie, with the support of her husband Eric, has opted to home school Nathan this year.  “I had thought about home schooling Nathan for three or four years before making the decision,” she said.

“There are few opportunities for his progress or success to be measured, so to be able to have an outside perspective on Nathan’s academic achievements is truly helpful," she continued.

This school year, Nathan has enjoyed creative writing under his mother’s tutelage.  On the subject of home schooling, he said, “I have a little more time to be with my mom and I have a little more freedom with assignments.  Creative writing is more flexible at home.”

“A month or two into the school year, I realized he was a really good writer,” Natalie said.  “We’ve accomplished a lot in language arts this year.”

Nathan started writing “Huskoo and the Whale,” the story of an Inuit child who saves a little whale from becoming the main course of the village feast by demonstrating extraordinary courage and selflessness, in November.

“I wrote it in the middle of winter and so I thought of cold and the Arctic,” Nathan said.  Writing the story took several more months. 

In February, the Christensens saw the advertisement for the contest, which stipulated that stories have no more than 450 words.  “Huskoo and the Whale” had to be edited to fit that format and Nathan created artwork to accompany the text.  “We had art all week long,” Nathan said.

The illustrations for the story are a collage of colored paper in tones of white, light blue and green, and pastel colors.

Aside from his newfound writing hobby, Nathan Christensen actively participates in scouting activities with Troop 1456.  He also studies the piano and fencing at Prince William Fencing Academy in Manassas.

Nathan’s brother Daniel, 7, is a student at Old Bridge Elementary School.  The siblings have a younger sister, Stephanie, 2.

To watch the May 24 awards ceremony, tune in to WVPT on July 2, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.

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