Essay contest winner Sydney Ostroski
and University of Delaware President Patrick Harker
at the Coast Day ceremony. Photo by Lisa Tossey
Sydney Ostroski found inspiration for her Coast Day essay contest entry right in her own backyard. Writing about the pond that’s filled with grasses, fish, turtles, and birds, the Shields Elementary student took first place out of several hundred entries.
During a special ceremony at Coast Day, held Sunday, Oct. 5, at the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, Del., College of Marine and Earth Studies (CMES) Dean Nancy Targett honored the winners and their teachers.
The theme for this year’s competition, which is designed to spark youngsters’ interest in the environment, was “Delaware’s Wetlands: How I Would Like to Help Keep Them Wonderful.” The winning students, who were selected based on the accuracy and originality of their essays, received bookstore gift certificates. The teachers of the winning students also received resource materials for use in their classrooms.
Ostroski, whose teacher is Brandi Townsend, received a $100 bookstore gift certificate. She wrote from the viewpoint of Bessy the Blue Heron and discussed the problem of algae growth caused by runoff containing fertilizer from yards.
“Large amounts of algae in a pond are not good for the pond water,” she wrote. “The algae draws the oxygen out of the water. When there is low oxygen in the water, the fish living in the ponds will die.”
Taking second place and a $75 bookstore gift certificate was Max Elder, also a student of Townsend’s at Shields Elementary. Elder wrote about the Adopt-a-Wetland program helping clear wetlands of invasive plants, excessive algae, and pollution.
Third place and a $50 bookstore gift certificate went to Austin Gardoski, whose teacher is Joan Balback at East Millsboro Elementary School. Gardoski took readers on a canoe ride through a great bald cypress swamp and taught them about the need to reduce pollution in the wetlands.
Balback said this year’s prompt was especially useful because students at her school had just built a wetland and were learning how to take care of it. The essay contest helped capitalize on that, she said.
“They learn a lot about the environment and how we have to take care of it,” she said.
Four honorable mention essayists also were honored at Coast Day. They were Meghan Subach, whose teacher is Marilyn Vallejo at St. Ann School; Shayelyn McKirby, whose teacher is Cindy Cunningham at Shields Elementary School; Cole Conrad, also a student of Cunningham’s at Shields Elementary School; and Carey Karl, a student of Townsend’s at Shields Elementary School.
Coast Day, which is organized by CMES and the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, annually attracts thousands of visitors to celebrate Delaware’s coastal resources and experience marine research. For more information about the event, which will be held next year on Sunday, Oct. 4, visit www.deseagrant.org/coastday or call 302-831-8083.
To learn more about the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, visit www.deseagrant.org. For more about CMES, visit www.ocean.udel.edu.
Coast Day Fifth-Grade Essay Contest Winner
By Sydney Ostroski
Richard A. Shields Elementary School
Teacher: Brandi Townsend
Have you ever heard of wetlands? I know all about wetlands. Let me tell you about the one I live in. My name is Bessy the Blue Heron and I live in a non-tidal wetland in Lewes Delaware. This wetland is very special to me because it is located in a great neighborhood and is a very nice place to live. I get to live with Freddy the Funky Wuby Fish. He is a wide mouth bass.
There are two types of wetlands, tidal which are areas like the salt water marsh around the canal in Lewes and non-tidal which are areas like the fresh water pond I live in. The pond I live in was made to make the neighborhood look beautiful and to give animals a protected place to go and feed. The pond was also made for the people who live here to fish for fun and to enjoy watching the animals. There is all kinds of tall grass, plants and flowers around this pond which helps protect the water. The pond has fish, turtles, and different types of birds like geese, ducks and of course me a blue heron. I use this area to rest, eat and drink. I love the way the wind blows the grass and the crickets chirp at night.
One problem that this pond is faced with is algae growth. The algae growth is caused by run off from the yards of the people who live around the pond. The yards have fertilizers on them, which make the grass and plants healthy. When the sprinklers are being used or there is rain, the fertilizers can go into the pond causing too much algae growth.
Large amounts of algae in a pond are not good for the pond water. The algae draws the oxygen out of the water. When there is low oxygen in the water, the fish living in the ponds will die. The fish are part of the food chain for birds and other animals, when the fish die they have nothing to feed on. The algae can also kill plants around the pond that the birds and ducks live in so they have no place to live. This is not good for the ecosystem.
As you can see, algae in our pond can put my life in danger and the life of my best friend Freddy the Funky Wuby fish. So, to prevent the algae growth in the ponds, the people who live in Wolfe Runne must be very careful. They need to stop using fertilizers on their grass and plants. Already around the pond there is tall grass, cattails and flowers. Those plants will stop some of the run off of these fertilizers and other pollutions. So the people who live on the ponds should not cut these plants. The people who live here should not leave trash around the ponds.
Wetlands are a wonderful place to live for us animals and can make a place very beautiful to look at. Taking care of the wetlands is important for everyone to keep them nice, protect the ecosystem and the animals.