Kenai Peninsula students earned a number of awards in recent contests sponsored by the Alaska Association of Conservation District. The district sponsored a speech contest and a poster contest with the theme "The Living Soil."
In the speech contest March 25, Hannah Harrison of Homer earned the $200 top prize.
Harrison and her competitors lauded the importance of soil as the basis for life on the earth and urged people to treat it properly.
"Using harmful pesticides and killing off everything from beetles to worms to bacteria is detrimental to our soil," Harrison told the audience. "And though there are some critters we could do without, we as a society need to learn how to manage pests without destroying the ecological balance of the soil."
Second-place finisher Tatiana Butler of Nikiski warned people about the danger of losing six pounds of U.S. soil for every one pound of food production. Butler urged careful management of soil resources.
Anne Baker of Delta Junction, who finished a close third, echoed the call for soil stewardship, urging responsible use of chemicals.
The message from all the competitors was clear: Soil is more than the dirt under foot; it is the basis for life.
Shenai Simeon of Aniak reminded people that wildlife suffers when man allows pollutants to affect the soil.
Palmer's Courtney Head suggested ways soil can be rebuilt and degradation can be slowed to preserve this often-unappreciated, precious commodity.
"Next time you say dirt, clean up your act," Harrison advised. "Dirt only applies to soil that has been used inappropriately, and because the uses for soil are boundless, dirt simply doesn't apply."
Each contestant at the state contest earned the right to compete in Anchorage at a contest at her local soil and water conservation district. Harrison represented the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District, while Butler represented Kenai SWCD; Baker, Salcha-Delta SWCD; Head, Palmer SWCD; and Simeon, Mid-Yukon Kuskokwim SWCD.
In the poster contest, three Kenai artists earned second-place finishes.
First-grader Richard Han of Kenai took second in the kindergarten and first grade category.
Mandy Corr of Kenai placed second among second- and third-graders.
Aubry Rizzo of Kenai was third for the third- and fourth-grade category.
Grade school contestants earned $75 for first place, $50, second and $25, third.
Poster entrants were solicited in each of Alaska's 12 Soil and Water Conservation Districts. All poster contest entrants at the state competition were winners at their local districts.
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