As the contest deadline for the 13th Annual Caring For the Kenai (CFK) environmental awareness contest sponsored by Unocal Alaska and Agrium draws near, there is good news for high schools and participating students.
Denise Newbould, Environment Health & Safety Superintendent, addressing the Kenai Chamber of Commerce recently said the cash prizes have nearly doubled for CFK 2003. "This year we have increased the amount of money that we give to the participating high school science departments from $5,000 to $7,500 cash, and we have converted the Savings Bond awards to $5,000 cash awards, so what we have done really is double the cash value of the prize awards to the students," said Newbould.
Since it's inception in 1990, CFK has challenged high school students to answer the question, "What can I do, invent, create or improve to better care for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula?" Two years ago, the prompt was expanded to include, "or to improve the area's preparedness for a natural disaster?" According to Newbould the contest continues to evolve as teachers and community leaders gather annually following the finals to evaluate the contest and implement changes to maintain the program's relevance for the students' educational experience. "We also get frank and honest feedback from the students too. They're not particularly thrilled when they first get the assignment, but by the time it's done it has turned into more than just an assignment for them but something they get committed to and really believe in. So the contest is growing and evolving all the time," added Newbould.
A documentary video produced during last year's contest shows kids talking about their CFK experience and the development of their projects. The video received positive reviews from Chamber members. "People like to hear from the kids, so the video is very effective and we like to use it to spread the word at public presentations, but the primary purpose is for showing in the classrooms so the kids that are participating this year get a feel for it from their peers who did the contest last year," said Newbould.
The program's broad community support is reflected in the growing participation of semi-finalist sponsors, which has tripled this year. "This is an example of our teacher evaluation. A few years ago it was suggested that we have hundreds of kids entering each year, and only 12 are getting any recognition, so we opened the program to local groups, businesses, agencies or individuals to recognize students' ideas that they deem significant. That has really grown, and is really what the program is all about, recognizing and encouraging students to be creative problem solvers," said Newbould. The CFK Semi-Finalist display will be held Saturday April 5th, this year at Safeway in Soldotna. The deadline for entries is March 17th and the top 12 oral presentations are scheduled for Wednesday night, April 16th, at the KCHS Little Theatre. Further details on the CFK 2003 program are available at www.caringforthekenai.com or by calling 262-4949.
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