Delaware fifth-graders were asked to put on their thinking caps and ponder the future of the Delaware Bay in the Coast Day Essay Contest sponsored recently by the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program. Dozens of young writers responded. And after reviewing the essays, the judges selected five winners, who were presented awards at Coast Day on Sunday, October 3, at the University's Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes.
The students were asked to respond to the following theme. Imagine that you have the ability to see into the future and the power to change those things that need to be changed for the good of a common resource like the Delaware Bay. What would you change? And how would your changes affect the health of the bay? Remember that your job is to balance the needs of ALL the users of the resource while protecting the environment.
Bethany Welliver, of William Henry Middle School in Dover, earned the top prize of a $100 savings bond and a copy of Delaware Sea Grant's award-winning book The Delaware Estuary: Rediscovering a Forgotten Resource. She urged readers to play an active role in improving the bay and gave examples of simple steps that every person can take, from picking up trash and disposing of it properly, "even if it isn't yours," to keeping off the dunes. She concluded her essay with a plea for all people to join together to clean up the bay.
"People created the situation in the Delaware Bay," Welliver wrote. "Don't waste time pointing fingers and fixing blame. We all need to work together to clean it up now, so that it is there to enjoy for future generations."
Kaitlin Fitz, also of William Henry Middle School in Dover, won the second-place award of a $75 savings bond and a copy of The Delaware Estuary book. She highlighted the bay's importance in commerce, in the water supply, and in recreation, including fishing, boating, and building sand castles on its shores. She noted several measures that Delawareans can take to help preserve the bay's quality, from not throwing plastic bags and bottles in the bay, to encouraging government to make and enforce laws to keep the bay clean.
Winner of the third prize -- a $50 savings bond and a copy of The Delaware Estuary book -- was Ashley Anderson of Frankford Elementary in Frankford. She reviewed negative changes that have occurred in the bay over the years, including the decline of the menhaden and oyster fisheries. She suggested several future uses of the bay, such as harnessing waves to get power. "We must preserve the bay," she concluded, "for all of life is dependent on clean water. With the knowledge of the scientists and the willingness of the people, we can do it!"
Erica Evans and Andrew Willey, both from Frankford Elementary, were the recipients of honorable mention awards. Each received a copy of The Delaware Estuary book. Evans noted the many ways the bay and its tributaries affect her, from the seafood she loves, to the horseshoe crab, which contains a compound in its blood that is used to save lives. Willey reminded readers that "all of humanity depends on water for life. Until there is another way to sustain life, we must save our bays and oceans."
Every year, fifth-graders from throughout Delaware are invited to participate in the Coast Day Essay Contest. Teachers interested in having their classes participate in next year's competition should contact Bill Hall, marine education specialist for the UD Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, for more information. Hall's number is (302) 645-4253. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
First Place -- 1999 Coast Day Fifth-Grade Essay Contest
"Wonders of the Sea"
by Bethany Welliver
William Henry Middle School
Beneath the water of the Delaware Bay, horseshoe crabs slide along the bottom, weakfish attack sea nettles, and dolphins frolic among the waves. It is a beautiful, peaceful environment. The world beneath the waves remains man's last unexplored area on Earth. And he is destroying it before he even finds out about the mysteries and wonders below the water's surface.
Water covers three-quarters of the Earth's surface, but less than one percent of it is potable -- that is, suitable for consumption. None of the water in the Delaware Bay is water that I would care to drink straight from the shore. In fact, I'm not really sure I'd want to eat the fish, crabs, or other edible marine life that have come from the Delaware Bay. The Delaware Bay is definitely polluted. That is a terrible shame.
It is unrealistic to believe that the problem can be fixed overnight, but there are little things that you can do to help. Every time you go to the beach, pick up trash that you see and dispose of it properly, even if it isn't yours. Reduce the amount of chemical waste: don't flush used oil or other trash into sewers - all waterways in Delaware eventually empty into the bay. Another simple thing is to only buy white toilet paper. The dyes in the colored toilet paper (which is sometimes flushed into the bay) has chemicals in it that harm the environment. Keep off the dunes so you don't help them to wash away. Dunes protect our beaches.
One simple thing that thousands of people do each year to help improve the Delaware Bay is to join the annual beach cleanup sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). This usually takes place the first Saturday in October. Others get together in the spring and plant beach grass on dunes to prevent erosion -- DNREC provides the seedlings free.
It is easy to say that we should save the Delaware Bay because of its natural beauty and its diverse wildlife and plant life. But saving the bay is practical for other reasons too. The Delaware Bay is rich in natural resources. It provides horseshoe crabs that are used in medical research. It supports the fishing industry. Delaware relies heavily on tourism, but people don't want to visit a dirty beach with filthy water.
People created the situation in the Delaware Bay. Don't waste time pointing fingers and fixing blame. We all need to work together to clean it up now, so that it is there to enjoy for future generations.