Writing isn’t Tuathla Hefferan’s favorite subject, but she sure is good at it. The Richard Shields Elementary School fifth-grader combined her writing talent with her love for science, her favorite subject, to nab first place in the annual Coast Day Fifth-Grade Essay Contest.
During a special ceremony at Coast Day, held Sunday, Oct. 7, at the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, Del., Governor Ruth Ann Minner and College of Marine and Earth Studies (CMES) Dean Nancy Targett honored the winners and their teachers.
The competition, which is designed to spark youngsters’ interest in the ocean, prompted students this year to write about the journey of a drop of water from the watershed to the coast. The winning students, who were selected based on the accuracy and originality of their essays, received savings bonds and other awards. The teachers of the winning students also received resource materials for use in their classrooms.
Hefferan said the assignment and assistance from her teacher, Brandi Townsend, helped her learn what a watershed is and how it works. She received a $100 savings bond for her story about Rachel Raindrop, who began in a pond and made her way to a stream where she met Professor Plankton.
“He told her raindrops are a big part of the world because they help everyone live,” she said.
Second place and a $75 savings bond went to Danielle Ruczynski, also from Richard Shields Elementary School. Ruczynski, whose teacher is Cindy Cunningham, imagined a drop of water that began as sweat dripping down her face that ended up visiting an ant farm, a pond, an aquifer and the Delaware Bay.
Ashlee Smeak took the third-place prize and a $50 savings bond. Smeak, of Millsboro Elementary, wrote about the water cycle and the importance of watersheds and wetlands.
“Watersheds are important to our health, our environment and our lives,” she wrote. “Use good judgment with whatever you do that may have an effect on our watersheds, because it actually affects you.”
Smeak’s teacher, Joan Balback, also teaches three of this year’s four honorable mentions. She said she was thrilled to have students Randy Short, Justin Revel and Brody Grove be acknowledged for their work. Caleb Parese, a student taught by Brandi Townsend at Richard Shields Elementary, also received an honorable mention.
“That’s why we enter every year, because I think it’s a great learning experience for the children but a great writing experience too,” Balback said.
Coast Day, which is sponsored by CMES and the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, attracts about 10,000 visitors annually to celebrate Delaware’s coastal resources and experience marine research.
To learn more about CMES and the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, visit www.ocean.udel.edu.
COAST DAY FIFTH-GRADE ESSAY CONTEST WINNER
Rachel Raindrop’s Watershed Connection
by Tuathla Hefferan
Richard Shields Elementary School
Teacher: Brandi Townsend
Hello, my name is Rachel Raindrop. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, my name kind of gives it away. I’m a raindrop. My parents are raindrops, my grandparents, great-grandparents, my brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends are all raindrops. I have more raindrop friends and relations than I can count. And when we’re all together, you can’t tell us apart.
My best friend is Ronnie Raindrop. She just splashed down one day and, as quick as you can say, “Raindrop!” we were friends. And not just plain old friends – we were best friends. I have lots and lots of other friends, but I’m not going to name then now. That list would be miles long!
The other morning Ronny and I were playing in a pond. The sky was dark and gloomy, but we were excited because we knew that the clouds overhead could be carrying friends and relatives who might be visiting from all over the world. The clouds carried raindrops from everywhere!
Then we heard it – a crack of thunder, and all of a sudden it started to rain cats and dogs. The raindrops poured down all around us. Ronnie and I swam as fast as we could to see if anyone we knew had arrived. We saw a lot of our friends and relatives.
That night we didn’t get very much sleep. We listened as our friends and relatives told the most wonderful raindrop stories about the exciting far away places they’d been to. I lay awake until sunrise thinking about what it would be like to travel the world in a cloud.
The next morning we were very tired and droopy raindrops. But a raindrop never gives in – so we played! The sun was shining so bright, we needed sunglasses. But, of course, raindrops don’t have noses or ears, so our sunglasses wouldn’t stay on.
The heat from the sun made me feel light-headed. Ronny said she felt light-headed, too. We were evaporating up into the clouds! We floated away on fluffy white balls of cotton. I saw Delaware and all the rivers and streams. Being this high up, I felt like a giant looking down at the place he called home.
As we traveled, the clouds grew bigger and darker. And then we felt a sudden jerk and before we knew it we were falling to the ground. We landed with a big splat. With our heads spinning, groups of us clung together and we rushed along the ground. I dissolved into the rich soil, found Ronnie, clung to a group of other raindrops and surfaced again as a trickle of water. I saw other groups of raindrops do the same. We drifted together in little streams, then merged together in bigger and bigger streams.
I noticed a funny smell. “It must be fertilizer in the dirt,” I told Ronnie. I was wondering if the stream was polluted. The worms were spitting out the dirty soil. I asked Ronnie if she knew where we were but Ronnie just said, “We are far away from home.” I figured Ronnie’s head got a little mixed up with all that bumping and jerking. Then more raindrops started to come down. I asked them if they knew where we were. One older raindrop said we were in a place called Lewes, Delaware.
The stream was full of tiny plankton and aquatic plants and the shoreline was full of sand, trees, flowers and plants of all kinds. What a great spot for a raindrop to be! I think Ronnie’s head was better since she started to say she was here once or twice on vacation. I said to Ronnie, “This is the prettiest place in the world!” Ronnie agreed.
We merged with another larger stream of raindrops and formed a river. Along the shore, there were beavers, cat tails, and little crabs. The ripples in the water were huge and I wished I had brought along my surfboard. The current was strong but, along with my fellow raindrops, we fought our way through to the shallow part of the stream.
Ronnie and I found a small school of plankton. We swam into the main office and asked for help. The office was full of desks made from shells and there were little chairs made of sticks. As we were waiting, the Principal was talking to one of the teachers on the shellaphone about us.
A few minutes later Professor Plankton swam into the room, looking very prim and proper, in his suit made of seaweed. He asked us what we needed from him at this time of the day. We said we needed a tour guide to help us get around. Professor Plankton’s eyes lit up. He said he’d be pleased as plankton to lead us on a tour. To my surprise he asked Principal Prissy Plankton if he could take a few days off to give us a proper plankton tour. Principal Prissy Plankton said that it was fine with her.
So, off we went with Professor Plankton leading the parade. The stream was crystal clear with bright green aquatic plants and there were little plankton hoses. Professor Plankton pointed out his house to us. It was a medium house with a seaweed lining on the outside. Professor Plankton started to tell us about watersheds.
He said that we raindrops are part of an ongoing cycle and that watersheds work to keep us clean and safe. He said that if we end up going through a water faucet, or a shower, or even a toilet bowl we go down the drain to a sewage treatment plant to get cleaned, and then we go through a pipe to a stream, out to a bay or even the ocean. We would eventually evaporate and become part of the clouds. Then we turn into rain, sleet, hail or, if we’re lucky, snow. From there we filter down through the ground and back into the water supply.
Professor Plankton told us that without us raindrops all the living things would eventually die. So, we learned that without water there would be nobody alive. Professor Plankton told us that if the humans keep throwing trash at us we will get sick and polluted so they will have no clean drinking water and they will eventually die.
Too bad the humans don’t get it. I wish I could convince them to make huge signs to stop polluting and to protect the environment or else they won’t have any drinking water to help them survive. One of the signs should say that you can last a long time without food but you can’t last more than 3 days without water. I’ll bet the signs would be a huge success. I’d make them myself, but they’d be too small for the humans!
Ronnie, Professor Plankton and I left for the Delaware Bay. We were very proud of what we do for the world.