When Earth Day comes around this year on Sunday, April 22, people across the country might be wearing a T-shirt designed by Hillside Elementary fifth-grade student Paige Hanson.

"Hillside staff and students engage in several Earth Day events every year and this year students submitted designs to the Earth Day Student Design Contest," said principal Frank Norton. "Fifth-grade students worked on the designs during art and connected the project with science and wellness. Paige Hanson from Hillside was the overall national contest winner, so her design will be on all Earth Day T-shirts."

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With Hanson winning the contest, Hillside Elementary in New Richmond, will be awarded a $500 gift card for supplies and up to 50 free Earth Day T-shirts for Hanson's class, parents and teachers.

"I didn't think I was going to win, but I liked my design," Hanson said. "I used emojis of the earth in my design because I really like emojis. It was really exciting to be the winner and to win money for the classroom as well as some free T-shirts with my design. It will be exciting and cool to see other people around school wearing the T-shirt I designed."

According to art teacher Mike Pike, the students had three days to come up with a concept for their designs and create their final submissions, due Dec. 8, with a two-week window for the company behind the contest, EarthDayShirts, to judge the nearly 400 entries and pick a winner. Hanson's design was one of 30 that Pike sent in out of the roughly 127 fifth graders who worked on a contest design.

"This is something new that the group started in the last few years. Liz (Erickson, science teacher) usually takes care of ordering our Earth Day shirts for the staff and she saw the contest and brought to my attention," Pike said. "We had just finished a project when she came to me, so I thought it was a great opportunity to try something different. It gives kids the option to use whatever they want on it, as well as the medium and their design. The kids really liked it and had a good time doing it."

Along with just being a fun project, Pike also used the contest entries as a chance to teach the fifth graders about thinking outside of the box as well as how to design for advertising. Hanson's design, which features a group of emoji-inspired Earths featured the phrase "Keep smiling it's Earth Day."

"We tried to make sure that every design the kids came up with said Earth Day and had 2018 on it," said Pike. "They had a choice of what they wanted to use as materials. I talked to the kids about not writing a book on their shirt and just keeping it to a short catchphrase. I think that is one of the reasons they liked Paige's design was that its catchphrase was short and simple. They did change it to 'Just Keep Smiling, It's Earth Day,' which reminds me of 'Finding Nemo.'"

This is the first year that Hillside has taken part in the EarthDayShirts design contest and wouldn't have happened if Erickson hadn't been looking for the staff's T-shirts for the school's annual Earth Day celebration.

"After I saw the contest, I came to Mr. Pike and asked him about having the whole fifth grade class work on an entry to the competition," said Erickson. "Our plan is to get T-shirts for the whole fifth grade since they all participated. We are also looking to get shirts for the whole staff as well.

"It was really good timing for us in science class since we had just finished talking about environmental things, like ecosystems, when we came across the contest."

Hanson almost had to wait until after the district's winter break to find out she was selected as the contest winner.

"I kept checking my emails to see if they would announce the winner before we left for break, but it didn't look like they would since it was getting late in the day," Pike said. "But then around 3:40 I got an email saying congratulations and that Paige was the winner. The look on her face was priceless."

Anyone interested in ordering a T-shirt with Hanson's design can go to EarthDayShirts.com. The shirts are available to order now through March 1 and will ship after March 16.

EarthDayShirts is a print-to-order company and is one of America's premier manufacturers and designers of Earth Day T-shirts for industry, environmental organizations, communities, and schools.