Now in its 27th year the Caring for the Kenai (CFK) environmental and disaster preparedness program sponsored by Tesoro held its annual science and language arts teacher in-service last month. “More than a dozen years ago Nikiski science teacher Rick Frederic came up with the idea of bringing science teachers together to collaborate and share ideas for the CFK curriculum. Due to budget constraints teacher in-service days had been cut and with it the opportunity to share the latest ideas. “The uniqueness of the CFK assignment is highly dependent on teachers assigning the program and working with students. So CFK stepped up with the approval of the school district to pay for the substitute teacher time required to bring them together for an in-service,” explained Merrill Sikorski, creator of the CFK program.
For the first time this year teachers attending the CFK in-service were eligible for 3 credits of professional development through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “This is a continuing education course that is graduate level and has been endorsed by the Kenai Peninsula School District Superintendent. This course includes attending the teacher in-service day, teaching the curriculum in their classes, mentoring their students throughout the school year and finally a well thought out reflection piece to see what worked and what could have worked better during their 2016-17 CFK experience,” said Summer Lazenby, director of educational operations at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska (CLCA.) CLCA is the non-profit organization that administers the CFK program. “We at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska and Caring for the Kenai feel that the addition of offering a professional development course is a wonderful, and welcome opportunity for participating teachers,” added Marnie Olcott, Chief executive officer for CLCA.
At the in-service CFK volunteer Martha Lucia Morgan who was helping set up the lunch that is traditionally provided by Arby’s, asked about the cost of the UAF credits to the teachers and if it would be possible for Morgan Steel to sponsor those costs. The next day her husband Wade Morgan replied, “For 60 years the people of the Kenai Peninsula have supported Morgan Steel, our family and our employees. We felt that, helping the educators, that freely give so much time and energy to develop our youth and our community, through this very special program, would be a positive way to give back to the people who have helped Morgan Steel thrive.”
Caring for the Kenai challenges high school students to respond to the prompt, “What can I do, invent, or create to better care for the environment on the Kenai Peninsula, or to help improve the area’s preparedness for a natural disaster?” This contest brings together the entire community of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula and offers over $25,000 in cash awards to area schools and local students. Kristin Davis teaches science at KCHS and has had several CFK winners from her classroom, “Community involvement is a big part of the program because it gets students out and implementing their project ideas. I’m very excited about the new mentorship opportunity this year, because it will hopefully connect kids with community resources more easily before they finish their idea and before the judging process begins,” said Davis. To view a CFK video about last year’s contest and to learn more about the new Caring for the Kenai community mentorship program go to www.caringforthekenai.com or call the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska at 907-283-2000 and ask to sign up.