It's a sure sign spring is on its way: There's talk all over the Kenai Peninsula about the annual Caring for the Kenai contest.
Now, in its 12th year, the environmental awareness contest this year has added a new dimension to the question it asks high school students to answer: "What can I do, invent or create to better care for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula or to improve the area's preparedness for a natural disaster?"
Asking students to think creatively about disaster preparedness as part of the contest is improving an already excellent program, one which has received much national recognition.
The Caring for the Kenai contest continues to merit praise on many fronts.
It encourages students to improve the place where they live right now. That in itself is a lesson in what it means to belong to a community.
It's practical, relevant education. Students aren't dealing with theories; they're solving real-life problems they've witnessed on the peninsula. In the case of disaster preparedness, they're trying to prevent or minimize future problems.
It's a great partnership between business and industry, the community at large, government and the school district. And that's what education should always be -- a partnership.
Not only is it a great way for students to think critically, but it's a way for the community to show students that young people and their ideas are valued, that they have much to offer.
And, let's face it, it's a great way for students to teach the community with their fresh perspectives on what may be old problems.
With a contest deadline of March 15, students all over the peninsula are beginning to work on their projects. If they call seeking your expertise, we hope you will help. There also are opportunities for individuals and businesses to participate in the program by helping to judge and by sponsoring semi-finalist recognition awards.
Notable past Caring for the Kenai projects include: a plan to create a polyculture greenhouse that went on to receive a $78,000 grant from the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation and grew into a successful business venture; an environmental education curriculum which was debuted on ABC's "Good Morning America"; a habitat enhancement program at Soldotna Creek Park; the promotion of environmental awareness through music and mass media; and an interactive computer program about how to preserve the Kenai River.
We can't wait to see what students this year come up with.
Best of luck to all the students participating in the contest, and many thanks to Agrium and Unocal, who sponsor the contest.
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