A fifth-grader from Royle Elementary School won a Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest. The winners read their essays and received their certificates and awards during a reception hosted by Darien’s Good Wife’s River DAR Chapter at the Noroton Presbyterian Church ’s parlor recently.

All essay contest participants were fifth-grade students in the Darien school system.

“Celebrating a Century: America’s National Parks” was the theme of this year’s essays. The students were asked to pretend they were visiting one of the parks and describe its location and explain what they think makes that park a national treasure.

The United States has over 50 protected areas known as national parks operated by the National Park Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior. Criteria for the selection of national parks include natural beauty, unique geological features, unusual ecosystems, and recreational opportunities.

Connor McNamaras winning essay described the beauty of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and mentioned the rare state bird of Hawaii, the nene, a Hawaiian goose that walks on the cooled lava. McNamara pretended to visit Thurston Lava Tube, the rainforest, Mauna Loa and the Chain of Craters Road.

Jake Hendrickson, from Ox Ridge School, placed second, while Annika Mengwall, from Tokeneke School, took home third place. Sean Brophy, from Tokeneke School, and James Buckjune, from Hindley School, earned honorable mentions.

Gwynne Campbell, of Sylvan Learning, once again donated funds for gift certificates for the essay contest winners. McNamara’s winning essay will be entered into the statewide competition.

National parks must be established by an act of the U.S. Congress. The first national park, Yellowstone, was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. The National Park Service was created in 1916 “to conserve the scenery, the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Darien resident Stephen Tyng Mather (1867-1930) served as the first director of the National Park Service from 1917 to 1929.

The dean’s list

Two Darien natives, members of the class of 2017 at Connecticut College in New London, have been named to the dean’s list for the fall semester.

Achieving dean’s honors, Mackenzie Dowling is an economics major and Margaret Wells, who earned dean’s high honors, is studying psychology and human development.

Thomas Dickson, of Darien, was named to Denison University’s fall semester dean’s list. Students who achieve dean’s list status have maintained a grade-point average of 3.7 or better for the semester at the school in Granville, Ohio.

Dickson is a graduate of Darien High and a member of the Denison Class of 2020.

Three Darien natives were named to the dean’s list with an academic record of 3.5 (or above) for the fall semester at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa: Caroline Madeleine Koenitzer, Ashley Anne McLaren and Bailey Virginia Swiggett.

At the DCA

”Central Park, an American masterpiece”: Historian and photographer Sara Cedar Miller will speak at the DCA’s next Women’s Luncheon on March 12 at 12:15 p.m.

Advance payment is required by noon on March 6.

The Darien Community Association is at 274 Middlesex Road. Reservations and payments can be made at dariendca.org or by calling 203-655-9050, ext. 10.

At the library

The Darien Library is at 1440 Post Road.

“Haze,” a documentary: In September 2004, fraternity pledge Gordie Bailey died from alcohol poisoning after passing out on a couch in his fraternity house following a hazing initiation at the University of Colorado. In 2008, the Gordie Foundation produced “Haze,” a documentary telling Gordie’s story and discussing the issues surrounding college drinking and hazing.

The panelists areJames Palmieri and Darien High School graduate Frank Bartolomeo, from the Southfield Center for Development. DHS senior Ryan Jones will moderate the panel.

The program — for parents and mature high school-aged students — is co-sponsored by the library, the Community Fund of Darien, Thriving Youth Task Force, YWCA/Parent Awareness, Darien Youth Commission and the Community Fund’s Youth Asset Team.

For information, call Emily Larkin at the Community Fund of Darien at 203-655-8775 or email emily.larkin@communityfundofdarien.org.

The EcoBeneficial Landscape: Environmental horticulturist Kim Eierman will share her knowledge about landscapes as healthy ecosystems at her lecture, “The EcoBeneficial Landscape: From Trees to Bees,” on March 7 at 7 p.m.

Tree Conservancy of Darien, Darien Land Trust, Darien Nature Center and the Darien Library.

Eierman will explain how even the most beautiful landscapes are not always healthy ecosystems and that a landscape is more than a combination of trees, shrubs and perennials. Her talk will encompass how landscaping with an ecosystem approach contributes to species diversity, attracting and supporting more birds, butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects.

Art for nature

A free art reception in honor of artist Gigi Barrett will take place from 5-7 p.m. on March 9 at Atria Darien, 50 Ledge Road. Half of all proceeds from the reception will be donated to The Darien Nature Center.

YWCA’s ‘Women of Distinction’

The YWCA Darien/Norwalk is currently accepting nominations for the 2017 Women of Distinction awards. Nominations are sought for women who epitomize leadership and have used their skills to make the community a better place to live.

After nominations are received, the Women of Distinction Nominations Committee will review the submissions and select the honorees. The honorees will represent leadership in varied service and business fields throughout the community. The committee will also identify a Young Woman of Distinction and award it to a woman who is under 21 years of age.

The women chosen will be honored at the Women of Distinction Awards Luncheon on May 4 at the Woodway Country Club.

The YWCA Darien/Norwalk encourages the public to nominate women who are leaders, role models, agents for change, mentors and/or an inspiration to others. Nomination forms are online at www.ywcadn.org and must be submitted by Feb. 27. For more information, email nominations@ywcadn.org.