DULUTH – Eight-year-olds Cooper Chick and Grant Danielski hunched over their drawings, brows furrowed in concentration as they scribbled and sketched with skinny Crayola markers.

Voilà, the pair produced their masterpieces — two paper masks, one colored to show a hockey game and the other depicting a rousing soccer match.

“Yeah, I think I’d wear that,” said Chick, surveying his work (the hockey rink) with satisfaction.

There’s a chance he might be able to, if his creation catches the eye of city employees. Duluth is hosting a youth mask coloring contest to encourage families to have conversations about how wearing masks can help promote public health.

A few winning designs will be printed onto real masks by a local company and handed out to children who need them. Parents and kids can download a template from the city’s website and submit their designs by June 5.

“As a parent, I understand that everything that our youth rely on right now is on shaky ground — and that feels really frightening,” said Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, who has two teenage sons. Little ones often associate masks with Halloween, not trips to the grocery store, she added.

With so much uncertainty still surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, boiling down kid-friendly explanations of the pandemic can be tricky at times, said Kevin Chick, Cooper’s dad.

“When is my summer hockey league starting? Why can’t I play lacrosse? It’s hard to answer those questions when you don’t know when things will be going back to normal,” Kevin Chick said.

Larson said Duluth will require folks to wear masks in city buildings once they reopen, but she doesn’t currently have any plans to order residents to wear masks in all indoor public spaces like Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey did last week.

“I really believe people want to make the right choice to protect themselves and the people they love,” Larson said. “Wearing a mask gives people something that they can tangibly do at a time where we feel so reactive to things outside of our control.”