Children gathered at the Government House on Friday for the Re-CREATE BVI Art competition, featuring student artwork inspired by the Virgin Islands environment. (Photo: GENEVIEVE GLATSKY)

Children gathered at Government House on Friday pointing at nature-themed artwork and spinning around wearing virtual-reality goggles for the first annual Re-CREATE Art Competition.

“It’s amazing. Some of them you look at the piece and then you start thinking, ‘Wow, that was actually done by a 10-year old,’” organiser Debi Carson of Art Without Limits said of the student-created artwork. “You just look at it and it’s art and then you start to think about where they are in age.”

Re-CREATE BVI — a collaboration between AWOL, the Association of Reef Keepers, IslandBags and the Governor’s Office — invited children across the territory to submit artwork inspired by the natural environment of the Virgin Islands.

Ms. Carson and Dr. Shannon Gore, the ARK managing director, partnered with schools and youth organisations and held free workshops throughout March and February to encourage children to create art and to inspire an interest in marine preservation.

Dr. Gore supplied Google Expedition virtual reality kits that simulate swimming with sea creatures to inspire children to make artwork about aquatic life.

“It’s like bringing the outside into the classroom,” she said. “The whole point of it is we’re gonna have lesson plans that teachers can use.”

One hundred and forty three students from Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke ranging in age from 4 to 15 submitted artwork made from watercolours, paint, pencil and other materials.

“We were all like ‘Is anyone gonna enter anything?’ and everybody did,” Dr. Gore said.

Xhayne Pemberton, 11, created the winning design, a colourful drawing of sea creatures, which will be printed on 1,000 reusable shopping bags made from recycled materials. He was also awarded his own 360-degree camera.

IslandBags will sell the bags through local vendors to raise funds for community art, education and environmental projects.

Governor Gus Jaspert and Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley also handed out prizes in categories like “Best Underwater Scene” and “Best Wildlife.”

“They did an awesome job. It was overwhelming,” Ms. Carson said. “I’m so impressed with our youth and what they were able to put forward.