Soldotna High School student Emerson Kapp, second-place winner, is joined on stage by judge Bruce Jackman as she presents the Kenai Peninsula Maze Board during the 33rd Caring for the Kenai competition at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska on Thursday, April 20, 2023.

Soldotna High School student Emerson Kapp, second-place winner, is joined on stage by judge Bruce Jackman as she presents the Kenai Peninsula Maze Board during the 33rd Caring for the Kenai competition at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska on Thursday, April 20, 2023.

Caring for the Kenai winners named at annual environmental event

Ccontest challenges peninsula students to devise ways of improving the environment or preparing for a natural disaster

Cook Inlet Academy sophomore Paxton McKnight took home the top honor at the 33rd Caring for the Kenai competition Thursday.

The annual contest challenges peninsula students — who vie for around $28,000 in personal and classroom awards — to devise ways of improving the environment or preparing for a natural disaster.

McKnight’s proposal, for a water filtration system designed from buckets called “Life Bucket,” earned him $1,600. According to a release from Caring for the Kenai, McKnight said the Life Bucket can filter significant quantities of water at lesser cost than existing market options.

Taking second place, and $1,100, was Soldotna High School student Emerson Kapp, who brought a Kenai Peninsula Maze Board, which offers a game based on the journey of salmon from riverbed to ocean and spawning. Players put a red golf ball — representing a salmon egg — in a small holder, then manipulate two ropes to move the ball up the river.

During Kapp’s presentation Thursday, she challenged Bruce Jackman, a member of the judge’s panel, to complete the game. She said that the game could be deployed at events like Soldotna’s Wednesday Market or at festivals.

In third place was Lauren Matson, who plans to use poetry to inspire environmental appreciation.

Partners Grace Henry and Hope Hillyer, of Cook Inlet Academy, earned fourth place for their plan to establish an award within the local chambers of commerce to celebrate businesses who are environmentally conscious.

Fifth place was awarded to Seward High School student Lucy Bamford, who is creating a picture book detailing edible and inedible plants to children.

Finally, in sixth place, Kavindra Johnson pitched the use of full spectrum light in schools.

The award money for individual winners totals $8,000, the release says. A further $20,000 will go to the classrooms of the 12 finalists.

In addition to the six winners, the other finalists were Nova Paulk, Sophia Jedlicki, Liam Bartholomew, Kiernan Lapp, McKenna Black and Matthew Schilling.

The schools that integrated Caring for the Kenai this year were Soldotna High School, Cook Inlet Academy, Homer High School, Seward High School, Nikiski Middle high School and Connections Homeschool.

All 12 finalists will be honored at a joint Chamber of Commerce luncheon on May 3 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

For more information about Caring for the Kenai, visit caringforthekenai.com or facebook.com/CaringForTheKenai.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob,dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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