Is your son or daughter entering fifth grade in the state of Delaware this year? If so, they are eligible to compete in the annual Coast Day Essay Contest. Winners of the contest will receive prizes and be recognized at Coast Day, Sunday, October 3, at the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, and in press releases to the media.
Coast Day is held every year on the first Sunday in October. Sponsored by the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program and Graduate College of Marine Studies, it is an annual educational festival and showcase for Delaware’s rich marine resources. The event typically attracts more than 10,000 visitors and has won state and national awards for its efforts to promote environmental education and stewardship.
The essay contest first became part of Coast Day in 1983 and is designed to spark youngsters’ interest in the ocean. Since its inception, students have written about a wealth of marine-related topics such as deep-sea exploration, the future of the Delaware Bay, the horseshoe crab, and many others.
“The trick in getting children to participate in the essay contest is in picking the right topic,” says Bill Hall, education specialist for the Marine Advisory Service and organizer of the contest. “We always try to select a topic that children either know a little bit about or may want to learn more about.”
According to Hall, the essay contest not only raises awareness about local marine issues and animals of the Delaware Bay and ocean, but also teaches children how to research a topic with the help of the library and other resources and then use the information they have found to write an essay in their own words.
Last year, Katie Hughes, of East Millsboro Elementary School in Millsboro, earned the top prize of a $100 savings bond for her essay describing a day in the life of a river pilot. Hughes’s teacher, Joan Balback, has had her class participate in the essay contest for the past several years. “The essay contest is a worthwhile project,” says Balback. “The students have the opportunity to write an essay and, at the same time, learn about the environment they live in.”
This year, fifth-grade students are being asked to write about the following theme: “A Day in the Life of My Favorite Ocean Critter.” Students interested in writing an essay are asked to describe what a day in the life of one of the many critters that live in the Delaware Bay would be like. Students can pick from a wide range of marine animals such as jellyfish, crabs, bluefish, whales, and loggerhead turtles. Essays should be approximately 250 words.
Prizes will be awarded to the top three winning essayists (a $100 savings bond for first prize, a $75 savings bond for second prize, and a $50 savings bond for third prize). In addition, each winner and honorable mention will receive a copy of The Delaware Estuary: Rediscovering a Forgotten Resource, which was published by the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program. The teachers of the winning students also will receive resource materials for use in their classrooms.
The essay topic does require some imagination; however, the judges also will be looking for accurate descriptions that show the students have researched the organism. For a complete list of rules, please visit http://www.ocean.udel.edu/coastday. For more information, please contact the Marine Advisory Service at (302) 645-4346 or Rita Baty at firstname.lastname@example.org>.