Caring for the Kenai, 2014

“The Caring for the Kenai event is one of the highlights of our school year,” said Dr. Atwater, superintendent. “This is a great chance for our students to apply learned concepts to a real world situation.  Each year I am impressed by the quality of the projects and by the number of district and community members who volunteer their time to make this a success.”
With a plan to increase longevity and add environmental benefits to roofs in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD) by installing “Green Roofs” Homer High School Senior Katherine Dolma claimed the Caring for the Kenai (CFK) traveling trophy for Homer the second year in a row. Dolma would like to create a test green roof on a school site. Her project won $1,600 cash and top CFK honors.

The CFK essay prompt challenges high school students to respond to the question “What Can I do, invent or create to better care for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula or improve the area’s preparedness for a natural disaster?” Taking second place and earning $1,100 was Kyrsten Maxson, a freshman from Kenai Central High School, with her idea to recycle junk mail by making mail box clusters collection sites for junk mail. “I’ve talked with U.S. Senators Murkowski and Begich and have received other help from other federal departments who are helping me and I hope to make a test cluster with recycle bins this summer,” she said.

In third place and claiming a $900 prize was Taylor Shelden, another KCHS student of Mr. Hanson, who is mounting a campaign to increase local food production through high tunnel farming. “My family was a great help as they have a lot of experience and my aunt Amber Ala took second place in the very first CFK contest in 1990,” said Shelden.
Taking fourth place honors and $750 was the Skyview High team of Morgan Chesley, Austin Craig and Aurora Derflinger. They successfully have collected books headed for the land fill and shipped them to needy African countries.

Coming in 5th and winning $650, from Nikiski and Mr. Morin’s class, was Braden Ellis who plans to reduce the use of plastic bottles by installing H2O bottle refill stations in schools. Winning $550 and in 6th place was Jane Rohr, another Homer High School senior, who is working with the Borough Assembly to build a commercial composting site in Homer to reduce the need to haul biodegradable waste to the Peninsula Land Fill in Soldotna while producing potting soil for re-sale.

In addition to the $7,500 in cash awards for the finalists this year $20,000 will be awarded to the science departments of schools that participated in CFK 2014 thanks to the CFK signature sponsor Tesoro Alaska and the community partners Chevron, Kenai River Raven Lodge, Hilcorp Energy, Kenai River Sportfishing Association, and ConocoPhillips. High schools using CFK as part of state standards curriculum were: Ninilchik, Nikiski, KCHS, Soldotna, Seward, Skyview, Homer, Voznesenka, Seward and Cook Inlet Academy. Each school receives $750 for their participation and the remainder of the $20,000 will be allocated proportionately to how the students placed in the CFK competition. Additionally, 20 some students received special recognition awards from local businesses and individuals.

Other finalists that earned $400 each for making it to the final 12 out of 400 some entries were: Haley Trefon of Skyview High School, making it to the finals for the second year, with her idea of knowing when the salmon return is coming by following the song of the Gold Crown sparrow. Afton Carlson from SoHi presented a plan to recycle and resell antifreeze from fishing vessels. Patrick Latimer from Homer High wants to implement a stream watch curriculum for elementary age kids taught by high school students to scientifically measure water quality. Melissa Ehlers from Ninilchik has a plan to install a wind generator at Ninilchik High School to reduce their cost of energy. Lisa Wisner of Homer High is writing an elementary school curriculum called “Peers for the Future” to mentor the next generation of environmental decision makers. Cassidy Soistman, also from Homer, organized a cross country ski race this winter and raised funds to make improvements at the Calvin & Coyle Woodland Park in Homer.

In addition to cash awards the finalists received the 24th Anniversary hooded sweatshirt. Saturday, April 26, 2014, finalists and guests attended the CFK V.I.P Awards banquet hosted in their honor by Tesoro at the Soldotna Sports Center. Governor Sean Parnell and the First Lady were present to congratulate the winners.

All of the 400 participants that entered CFK this year with their ideas will receive a knit mountain hat or shoulder sling back pack. This year’s oral presentation judges included Marcus Mueller for Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, KPBSD board president Joe Arness, James Tangaro, Tesoro plant manager, Jade Gamble of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Assistant Kenai National Wildlife Refuge manager Steve Miller, Kenai Watershed Forum executive director Robert Ruffner and last year’s 1st Place CFK winner Elise Webber. Caring for the Kenai is administered as part of the Kenai Watershed Forum’s education program.

Caring for the Kenai

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