The Caring for the Kenai (CFK) environmental awareness contest and community partnership began its twenty-sixth year this fall with a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District-wide teacher in-service day for science and language arts teachers interested in assigning the CFK curriculum and competing in this year’s contest. CFK pays the school district for the substitute teacher time, Tesoro provides gas cards for participants and Arby’s traditionally provides lunch for everyone.
“Caring for the Kenai has long been an excellent partner with KPBSD,” said Superintendent Sean Dusek. “The opportunities for students to develop rigorous and relevant projects that make a difference in our local communities demonstrates the best educational practice that enriches what is happening in our classrooms. Our teachers have also benefited by developing creative activities and lessons that make their classrooms come alive in meaningful and thought provoking ways. Many of the skills our students will need in their future are fostered within this program.”
At a joint Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Soldotna Chamber of Commerce meeting last week, CFK creator Merrill Sikorski presented a video highlight review of CFK over the last quarter-century and told the well-attended meeting how Caring for the Kenai began with a Caring for the Kenai idea that he originally presented to Unocal Oil & Gas Operations. As CFK begins its twenty-sixth year, Sikorski said it will be transitioning as an educational program administered by the Kenai Watershed Forum to a program under the umbrella of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.
“The CFK program has evolved into an educational curriculum that meets state and national standards for science and language arts. It is now available for licensing to any school district anywhere. To export the program nationally, the Challenger Center of Alaska has stepped up to champion the competition and be the programs non-profit administrator,” Sikorski explained. The local CFK will continue in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District with Tesoro as the program’s signature sponsor. “The community and industry support over the last quarter century for CFK has been truly amazing and is a model for the world. We can all be proud to have contributed to creating an educational partnership that can change the way we address environmental issues and challenges our youth to think of creative ideas,” he said.
“We have seen great projects that are benefiting our environment and quality of life come out of the CFK program. The Kenai Watershed Forum will continue to support student-driven ideas in our community and are happy to see the growth of the CFK program” said Robert Ruffner, KWF executive director.
“The Challenger Mission to inspire students in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, while connecting with relationships and applications to real world situations creates a seamless backdrop for a program such as Caring for Kenai that was designed to have students think of creative ideas to help their local environment and prepare for natural disasters. The opportunities available to our students through these two long-standing, proven programs is an example of how partnerships can have a much greater impact by working together,” said Marnie Olcott, CEO of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.
“As a longtime sponsor of the CFK program, Tesoro is proud of the unique educational opportunities the program has provided to students across the Kenai Peninsula. The type of innovative thinking and sustainable programs that have grown out of this annual event reflect the commitment to safety and the environment, valued by both Tesoro and the Kenai community,” said Kenai Refinery Manager Cameron Hunt.
Sikorski said that over the last 25 years more than 10,000 KPBSD students have participated in the program and come up with an idea to improve the local environment or prepare the community for a natural disaster. Since the program began awarding cash prizes to schools that utilize CFK as curriculum, more than $200,000 has been distributed to science and language arts classrooms for materials and technology of participating schools across the district.
CFK community partners that provide the cash awards include: Tesoro, Hilcorp, ConocoPhillips, Kenai River Sportfishing Assoc., Kenai River Raven Lodge and ASRC Energy. Learn more about CFK by logging on to caringforthekenai.com or liking them on Facebook.