A popular event at the University of Delaware’s Coast Day festival was the announcement of the winners of a statewide fifth-grade essay contest that was designed to spark youngsters’ interest in the ocean. This year, students were asked to write about the following theme: “The Delaware State Legislature recently named the horseshoe crab as the official state marine animal. With all the hundreds of marine animals to choose from, why do you think they picked the horseshoe crab?”
Six winners were selected based on the accuracy and originality of their essays and were presented with awards at Coast Day on Sunday, October 6, at UD’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes. The teachers of the winning students also were recognized and received aquariums for use in their classrooms.
Joel Collins, of East Millsboro Elementary School in East Millsboro, earned the top prize of a $100 savings bond. “It felt good to win first place — I learned a lot about the horseshoe crab,” said Collins.
In his winning essay, Collins mentioned several reasons why he thought the state legislature picked the horseshoe crab to be the official state animal. He described its historical uses by the Indians, the importance of the horseshoe crab in maintaining Delaware’s population of shorebirds, and the medical uses of the horseshoe crab. Collins concluded his essay by saying, “I hope we can keep protecting the horseshoe crab so it lives forever.”
Collins’s teacher, Joan Balback, has had her class participate in the essay contest for the past several years. “I think the essay contest was a worthwhile project,” said Balback. “It was a good way to have my students write an essay, and, at the same time, learn about the environment they live in.”
Brandon Collins, also a student at East Millsboro Elementary School, won the second-place award of a $75 savings bond. His teachers are Robin Hall and Janet Warrington. Collins noted that the horseshoe crab “arrived at least 100 million years before the dinosaurs” and “hasn’t changed a bit since then.” He also mentioned the importance of horseshoe crabs to medical science and said, “Just think, the horseshoe crab could actually save your life!”
Winner of the third prize — a $50 savings bond — was Abbey Hilligoss, a student of Dana Orton at Milton Middle School in Milton. In her essay, Hilligoss wrote that Delaware wouldn’t be the same without horseshoe crabs. “It would be like the United States without the bald eagle.”
Lizzy Kellner, Michael Cruz, and Amber Richards received honorable mentions. Kellner, a student in Nancy Hitch’s class at Frankford Elementary School in Frankford, discussed the importance of the horseshoe crab to the ecosystem of the Delaware Bay and its contributions to man. She concluded that “the horseshoe crab, in my eyes, is one of the most essential creatures in our waterways.” Michael Cruz, a student in Hall and Warrington’s class, noted that “Delaware Bay has the largest population of horseshoe crabs, and they are so important to scientific research.” As a result, “choosing the horseshoe crab as the state’s official marine animal was a good decision.” And in her essay, Amber Richards, a student in Debbie Grise’s class at Lord Baltimore Elementary School in Ocean View, wrote that horseshoe crabs are “so spectacular, it is no wonder why Delaware has chosen them as their marine animal.”
The essay contest was sponsored by the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program. For information about next year’s competition, teachers should contact Bill Hall, marine education specialist for the UD Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service. Hall’s number is (302) 645-4253, and his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Place — 2002 Coast Day Fifth-Grade Essay Contest
“Delaware’s Horseshoe Crab”
by Joel Collins, East Millsboro Elementary
Teacher: Ms. Joan Balback East Millsboro, Delaware
Can you guess what our state marine animal is? Well, if you are stumped, then let me tell you. It is the horseshoe crab. I’m going to describe all the interesting facts explaining why they picked the horseshoe crab as the official state marine animal.
The first amazing fact about the crab is how the Indians used them. Whenever the Indians’ canoe began to leak water, they would use the horseshoe crab’s shell to bail the water out. The crab’s tail was used as a spear for hunting. Without the tail, they may not have been able to hunt effectively. Indians were also able to use the dead crabs as fertilizer. It was one of the best fertilizers ever.
One great thing about the horseshoe crab is they lay lots of eggs. Having lots of eggs is good because their eggs feed the shorebirds. The horseshoe crab lays about 90,000 eggs each year. Without the horseshoe crab, Delaware’s population of shorebirds would decrease.
The last and probably the best reason why the horseshoe crab was picked as our state marine animal is because of the medical reasons. One of the medical functions of the horseshoe crab comes from its blood. They take blood samples from the horseshoe crab, and the blood helps fight infections in humans. Also, medical researchers use the horseshoe crab’s eyes. They study their eyes to learn more about human eyes.
I am very delighted the horseshoe crab is our state marine animal. It is very important to the state of Delaware. I hope we can keep protecting the horseshoe crab so it lives forever.