5th Grade Winning Essays
First Place: Sky Dunmyer
Shields Elementary School
Teacher: Amanda Archambault
Hello, my name is Jeffrey. I come up to the surface to take a breath, then 8 to 10 minutes later, I do the same. But imagine if I could not take one of those breaths! The ocean provides 50% of the air we breathe from phytoplankton. That means if you take 8 breaths, 4 of them come from the ocean. Did I mention that I'm a bottlenose dolphin, an aquatic mammal? My relatives live all around the globe, but my habitat is the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Delaware.
My human friend Sky's favorite place on the Delaware coast is Dewey Beach because the waves are perfect for her to boogie board. I love it because I get to watch people play all day. Dewey Beach is a great place to have fun – fishing, surfing, swimming, or just relaxing. Sky's dog really loves to play on Dewey Beach and Sky always cleans up after him, which is important to help keep the beach and ocean clean.
I try to tell everybody I can about preserving the Delaware coast, my home. My relatives down in Florida experienced an oil spill last year and it was awful. I would hate for anything like that to happen in Delaware. One way you can help prevent oil spills from happening in the future is by voting to elect people that care about the ocean.
I'm worried about my home. My food population keeps getting smaller because of pollution and overfishing. Soon there will be no more fish for me to eat. But it doesn't just matter to me, it is important to you humans, too. Fish is a source of protein for over a billion people. Responsible fishing will help.
I am also worried about the runoff from homes and farms. A lot of people put all sorts of fertilizer on their lawns and garden to make it look beautiful, but if you grow plants naturally, it might even turn out prettier! Do a few weeds really matter? So please use less chemicals and buy fruits and vegetables that are grown sustainably.
I hope you can help me preserve my habitat, and remember these are easy tasks that you can do. I promise you it's for a good cause! Will you help Sky and me protect the ocean?
Second Place: Joshua Miller
St. Ann School
Teacher: Marilyn Vallejo
Cape Henlopen State Park drive-on beach is my favorite place in Delaware. I have been going there since I was six. Some of the things I like to do are bodysurf in the water and dig for sand crabs. I also like to explore in the tidal pool for shells and lost objects, like fishing nets, sunglasses, and plastic rings. These are things I do that help the ecosystem.
Because the state park is a major protector of wildlife, I want to help protect the environment by cleaning up trash and participating in community Earth Day events.
The wildlife there is very broad and diverse. I have seen ghost crabs, sand crabs, and blue crabs. I go fishing with my Dad and we catch blue fish, croakers, flounder, skate, and rays. Often times I see dolphins, seagulls, and baby sharks. Pelicans are uncommon but not rare, and I'm lucky if I see one.
Finally, horseshoe crabs spawn here during the high tides in late spring. When horseshoe crabs lay clusters of eggs, thousands of shorebirds fly to Delaware estuary to feed on these eggs. This gives the shorebirds the energy they will need to fly north to the Arctic or their breeding grounds. They depend on these eggs to feed on every year.
Threats to this ecosystem are beach erosion due to hurricanes and other major storms, a rise in sea level, and decrease in horseshoe crabs from loss of sandy spawning beaches, which means there will be less eggs for the shorebirds.
My ways to preserve this place for the future are to not litter, stay off the dunes and other places on the beach where it is marked "keep out." Clean up trash or litter, especially fishing nets or plastic carriers that may be harmful to birds or sea life.
At home, I can help plant native plant species, since they don't need pesticides and use less fertilizer, which ends up in waterways.
As an adult, I plan to do community outreach activities and help make laws to protect the horseshoe crabs and shorebirds. Then, I can bring my children and grandchildren here to enjoy the Cape Henlopen Beach and wildlife, as well as go fishing and crabbing like I do as a child.
Third Place: Oliver Conaty
St. Ann School
Teacher: Marilyn Vallejo
As I sit down to write this essay it is raining incredibly hard and has been all day. Even though rain is very important for our environment and wildlife, it can be problematic for our rivers and streams.
I live in Wilmington, Delaware. I love to walk my dog down to the Brandywine River. She loves to swim and chase the wood ducks, while my brother and I fish. We enjoy fishing and have caught many different types of fish over the years such as white perch, tiger muskee, shad, and both rainbow and brown trout. We also like to feed to squirrels.
Many people like me enjoy not only the Brandywine River for fishing, but canoeing, too. The river also provides us with the water we drink and bathe in. This is why it is extremely important to protect our water as well as these delicate habitats for fish and wildlife.
I live in the Brandywine Creek Watershed. All of the land surrounding the streams shed water into that stream and into the river when it rains. This brings me back to this miserable rainy day. Rain helps the plants and animals but it also can be harmful to our waterways. When it rains many things such as pet waste, trash, yard waste, motor oil, and many other pollutants are washed off the streets and yards and into storm drains. These storm drains all around our cities drain this dirty water directly into our rivers. Yuck! But... We can do something about this. Even as a ten-year-old fifth grader, I can help protect our water!
As a community we need to keep litter off our streets. Even something small like gum or candy wrappers can get washed into storm drains. We also need to pick up after our pets instead of leaving it in the grass. Pet feces can put disease-causing bacteria into our drinking water. Ask your parents to use natural fertilizers instead of chemicals. We also need to make sure lawn waste such as leaves, sticks, and grass clippings are either bagged or composted. Otherwise, these can clog drains when it rains. These are all simple yet important ways that we can all contribute to keeping our waters clean and beautiful so that when I grow up I can continue to enjoy the Brandywine River with my children and my grandchildren.
Honorable Mention: Keeley Dugan
St. Ann School
Teacher: Marilyn Vallejo
I love Rehoboth Beach. My favorite things are swimming in the ocean and building sandcastles. I also like to play volleyball in the sand and look at all the different kinds of shells. I like to watch seagulls flying and dolphins diving. Last time I was at the beach I was digging in the sand, and a little sand crab popped out and scurried away. Then he burrowed back into the sand.
A healthy ecosystem is very important to the survival of seagulls, dolphins, sand crabs, and many other beach and ocean animals. All the parts of the ecosystem depend on each other. Dolphins eat fish and live in water, seagulls eat sand crabs and make nests in dune grasses. Beach grass holds the dunes together keeping the beach from disappearing. Every spring horseshoe crabs come from the ocean to the Delaware Bay beaches to lay their eggs. Shorebirds migrating north from South America to their nesting grounds feed on these eggs for energy during their long trip.
All of the things that humans enjoy at the beach can be threatened by human activity. Oil spills, litter, and waste dumped into the water by businesses, factories, and individuals are all examples of human pollution.
Believe it or not pollution can come from my own backyard. When it rains the runoff of chemicals and pesticides from the watershed ends up in the rivers, streams, and creeks. Eventually the pollution reaches the Delaware Estuary and the ocean.
There are things I can do to make a difference in our water quality. I can help my mom pick native plants for the garden. Plants that grow naturally in my area don't need chemicals because they don't get diseases or have problems with insects. I can also gather fruit and vegetable scraps and eggshells to compost and put nutrients back into the soil. Since ladybugs, praying mantises, spiders, birds, and bats eat insects that are threatening to the garden, I can provide habitats for them. With my cats we carefully bag the used litter and put it in the trashcan so it can't get into the sewers. I use fewer plastic products so I don't create as much trash that will end up in a landfill.
My neighborhood can work in cooperation with each other to preserve our coasts so we can continue to enjoy all the beach offers and make wonderful memories.
Honorable Mention: Veronica Dougherty
St. Ann School
Teacher: Marilyn Vallejo
When my parents ask where I want to go on vacation, the first place that pops into my head is Rehoboth Beach. I love everything about the beach. The beautiful white sand and the blue water. It is all so breathtaking to me. I love building sandcastles with my brother and diving into the waves with my Dad. After a long day, I love to take a walk on the beach and watch the dolphins. It is all very exciting but I would be sad if I could no longer go to the beach and if the water was so polluted that I could no longer swim in the ocean. I have ideas so we can keep the beaches clean.
The ocean is a very unique ecosystem. It is full of creatures you would not find anywhere else. The ocean is important because it absorbs and releases heat, which controls the temperature on Earth. We get food from the ocean and use things from the ocean in everyday products. For example, seaweed is used as a thickener in ice cream. Without seaweed, ice cream would be a milkshake.
Pollution directly harms the habitat of marine life. Anyone who uses their car instead of walking or leaves trash on the beach threatens the ocean. We must be careful of what fertilizers and pesticides we use on our lawns. These toxic substances will runoff into our watershed and eventually end up polluting the ocean.
I have ideas to help preserve the ocean. I never bring a plastic bottle to sporting events. I can put a sign in our school gym that encourages others to bring reusable water bottles to cut down on all those plastic bottles. Also, when I am in a car waiting for someone, I ask to turn off the engine so we don't pollute the air. When I am old enough to drive I can set up a carpool to school. This will help air quality and conserve energy. The more people learn about how important it is to protect the ocean, the more they will want to help.
I have many more ideas but those are just a few of how to preserve the ocean for future generations. It is very important to me to protect the ocean because I would like my children and grandchildren to have as much fun as I do at the beach.
Honorable Mention: Malakai McCarty
East Millsboro Elementary School
Teacher: Tonya Mock
Checking in on Our Coast
My favorite place to visit in coastal Delaware is Trap Pond State Park. It is a special place to me for many reasons. My family goes to the park often and we even took my grandparents there for the day when they came to visit. It is a beautiful clean park that offers many different things to do. I enjoy when my family explores the nature trails. We get to appreciate the pond, wildflowers, forests, birds, bald cypress trees, and animals in their natural habitat. Trap Pond has a campground and a boat rental kiosk for visitors. There are grills and picnic tables near the pond. My other favorite parts are the playground and Baldcypress Nature Center.
I think it's important to keep the environment at Trap Pond a special place so that people can keep enjoying it. A unique feature about the park is that there are no trash cans. This means each person should take on the responsibility of carrying any trash they have outside of the park. We should all be respectful of the animals who live inside Trap Pond by keeping it clean. A good way to do this would be to start a community environmental club. The club could meet at Trap Pond to walk through and pick up trash. Another way we can keep Trap Pond special is to promote the use of the park. There is a small fee for entering the park and that money goes to maintaining it. The more people who visit the park, the more money they have for upkeep.
It is important to help preserve Trap Pond State Park for future generations. I would like to share the experiences I've had at Trap Pond with my children and grandchildren one day. We need to work towards keeping good air and water quality for future generations. If we all recycle, reuse, and reduce, it will have a positive effect and help preserve special places like Trap Pond. Part of the work our community environmental club could do is teaching people how their actions today can impact everyone's tomorrow. With each person's cooperation in things like conservation of energy and water, recycling, and limiting the use of household pollutants, places like Trap Pond will be around for centuries to come.