Rebekah Krogseng, a fifth-grader at Nikiski North Star Elementary School, reacts to the announcement that she won first place in the Alaska Tar Wars poster contest Monday. Tar Wars is a tobacco-free educational program geared toward fourth- and fifth-graders.
Photo by Will Morrow
Rebekah Krogseng not only got the message from the Tar Wars program about living a tobacco-free lifestyle, she was able to find a creative way to pass it on.
Krogseng, a fifth-grader at Nikiski North Star Elementary School, created the winning entry in the Alaska Tar Wars poster contest, announced Monday. Her poster features a puffin superimposed over a drawing of the Earth. The message on her poster reads “I’m All The Puffin This World Needs. Live Smoke Free!”
“I came up with the puffin because they have ‘No puffin’” signs. I just thought, ‘The whole world and no puffin,’” Krogseng said of the inspiration for her poster design. She said she revised her poster six or seven times before she completed her final version.
The Tar Wars program is new to Alaska schools this year. It is sponsored nationally by the American Academy of Family Physicians, while the Alaska Academy of Family Physicians sponsors the state program. Pam Johnson, the Alaska Tar Wars coordinator, said most of the interest in the state this year came from the Kenai Peninsula, where five schools -- Nikiski North Star, Redoubt Elementary, Tustumena Elementary, Sterling Elementary and Moose Pass -- participated.
According to the Tar Wars Web site, the program’s goals are to “educate and motivate students to be tobacco-free; mobilize health care professionals to become proactive in their community’s health education; (and) encourage community involvement in support of the Tar Wars program.”
Classroom teachers start by downloading a program guide from the Tar Wars Web site and conducting several activities with their students. That’s followed by a classroom presentation from a medical professional. Dr. Katy Sheridan from Soldotna and Heather Carew, a third-year medical student from the University of Alaska working in the community, made presentations at peninsula schools.
“Dr. Sheridan really wanted to get this project started, so I agreed to help out as part of my community project,” Carew said.
Classroom presentations include activities like trying to breathe through a straw to simulate shortness of breath, and a financial activity meant to illustrate the costs associated with tobacco use.
“I think the most important thing is this teaches kids to make healthy choices, and live a healthy lifestyle,” Johnson said of the program. “... It emphasizes the basics of what it means to be tobacco-free.”
The program culminates with the poster contest, where students can use their artistic and creative abilities to illustrate the things they’ve learned. The top posters from each participating class were judged by members of the Central Peninsula Hospital staff to pick the state winner.
“The ideas they came up with send a strong message, and they’re clever,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the top posters will be put on display at various places around the state next year. Possible locations include hospitals and libraries.
For her effort, Krogseng will get to travel with Johnson to the Tar Wars national convention in Washington, D.C., in July, where she will have the opportunity to mingle with winners from other states. She also will meet with Rep. Don Young. Krogseng’s prize includes airfare and hotel accommodations for herself and one parent.
Second-place winner Kara Knotek from Moose Pass won a $200 savings bond from Wells Fargo, and third-place winner Sophia Steigall from Sterling won a $100 savings bond.
Krogseng’s mother, Ann Krogseng, said participation in Tar Wars has been worthwhile for her daughter.
“When I asked her, ‘What did you learn from this?’ she said, ‘Not to smoke,’” Ann Krogseng said. She said her daughter also learned from the contest to do her best, and that sometimes it takes several tries to get to your best.
Ann Krogseng said she and her husband, Dan, have talked about a family vacation to Washington and, if possible, will try to make the trip a family affair.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for kids to see how far they can go with things,” she said.
Participating teachers are Lisa Rolph at Redoubt, Elizabeth Jones at Moose Pass, Hannah Jones at Sterling, Dave Michael and Gail Knobf at Tustumena, and Sherry Matson at Nikiski North Star.
Tar Wars Poster Contest
1. Rebekah Krogseng, Nikiski North Star; 2. Kara Knotek, Moose Pass; 3. Sophia Steigall, Sterling. Honorable mention: Jared Wallis, Nikiski North Star; Elizabeth Davis, Tustumena; and Brenner Musgrave, Redoubt.
For more information on the Tar Wars program, visit www.tarwars.org, or www.alaskaafp.org.
Will Morrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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