Calling All Elementary Schoolers

The National Zoo’s elephants are moving to a new Elephant Community Center soon, and Washingtonian is asking students to write the pachyderms a welcome home letter they’ll never forget.

Photograph of an Asian elephant from the Smithsonian National Zoo courtesy of the zoo's Flickr photostream.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Washingtonian need your help! The Zoo’s elephants are moving to a new Elephant Community Center soon, and we know how much they’d appreciate a proper welcome from the community. 

Photo by Connor Mallon, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

We invite elementary school-aged students in the Washington area to write letters to the elephants on one of the following topics and mail them to the magazine.

  1. Tell the elephants about a time when you had to move into a new house or classroom or to a new state—or write about another kind of change you’ve had to make—and describe how it went for you. What tips do you have for the elephants for their big move? 
  2. Tell the elephants why it is important to you that their friends in the wild be conserved. Write to them about what you are already doing or what you hope to do in the future to make a difference. 

Washingtonian will post a selection of the most thoughtful and creative letters here on Washington Voices beginning March 4, and the Smithsonian will invite three letter-writers—one from each of three grade-level categories (kindergarten and first grade; second and third grades; and fourth, fifth and sixth grades)—to the Zoo the morning of March 21. They and their families (parents and siblings) will get a sneak peek at the new Elephant Community Center, and they will get to read their letters to the elephants at a press event that morning. 

The students selected to come to the Zoo will have demonstrated in their letters creativity, imagination and the writing skills they are learning in school. They also will have demonstrated an effort to research the Zoo’s three elephants and the Zoo’s work with elephants under human care and in the wild. 

Washingtonian will accept letters postmarked no later than March 11. Winners will be announced March 14 and will be invited to come to the Zoo the morning of March 21 (transportation will not be provided). Parents, guardians and teachers should remember to use the cover sheet and provide parental/guardian contact information so that the Zoo can invite the young letter writers to the event. 

The Zoo’s new Elephant Community Center provides the Zoo’s elephants with ample space for socializing, training, and playing, and gives visitors the chance to get an up-close view of these incredible animals. The Elephant Community Center opens to the public March 23. 

Letters should be sent along with a completed Letter Contest Cover Sheet to:

Mary Yarrison

Washingtonian Magazine 
1828 L St. N.W., Suite 200

Washington, D.C. 20036

Have questions? I’ll be checking the comments below regularly, so you’re welcome to leave them there. Or you can email me at