Pictured are (from left) David Small, essay contest winner Xavier Hines, Marilyn Vallejo and Mark Moline.

Fifth graders recognized

Coast Day essay contest winners explored theme of storm readiness


1:36 p.m., Oct. 15, 2013--A compelling essay by a student who witnessed hurricanes in Jamaica and Delaware won first place in the 2013 Coast Day Fifth-Grade Essay Contest. 

The top-placing essay by Xavier Hines, a student in Marilyn Vallejo’s class at St. Ann School in Wilmington, described his firsthand knowledge of the devastation caused by storms. 

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“After the hurricanes in Jamaica, we saw tall palms on the ground, trees without leaves, roads flooded, and many houses without roofs,” Hines wrote in his winning essay. “Many beaches were eroded and sand was on the roads and in people’s houses.”

Hines and his fellow winners were recognized at a special ceremony during Coast Day, held on Oct. 6 at the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes. Sponsored by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE) and the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, Coast Day highlights the importance of the state’s coastal resources.

The Fifth-Grade Essay Contest asked students to reflect on this year’s theme, “Building Resilient Coastal Communities.” Students were asked to describe what they learned in the months since Hurricane Sandy and how they can best prepare for future coastal hazards such as hurricanes, flooding and sea level rise.

“With so much focus on standards and test scores, it’s great to be able to recognize students’ ability to take an environment-related writing prompt and respond to it with emotion, creativity and scientific accuracy,” said Chris Petrone, education specialist with Delaware Sea Grant. “Seeing the faces of the winners, their families and their teachers as they’re called up to receive their prizes is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.”

Second place was awarded to Hines’ classmate, Olivia Sheetz, and third place went to Ryan Burke in Brandi Townsend’s class at Richard A. Shields Elementary in Lewes. Honorable mentions were presented to: Ryleigh Coffey in Sandra Schlapfer’s class at John R. Downes Elementary School in Newark; Morgan Gracey, also in Vallejo’s class at St. Ann School; and Fiona Pando in Alayne Shockely’s class at Worcester Preparatory School. 

“What struck us as we were reading these, and what strikes us each year, is how much young people absorb from their experiences with the coast,” CEOE Dean Nancy Targett said during the awards ceremony.

Targett was joined in congratulating the students by UD Provost Domenico Grasso, Lewes Mayor Jim Ford, School of Marine Science and Policy Director Mark Moline, Patrick McCullar of the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation and David Small of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. 

The essay by Hines follows. To read all six winning essays, visit this link.

Fifth-grade essay contest winner

Xavier Hines

St. Ann School

Teacher: Marilyn Vallejo

Hurricanes are a scary weather event. My family has experienced Hurricanes Ivan and Emily when we lived in Jamaica and Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in Delaware. After the hurricanes in Jamaica, we saw tall palms on the ground, trees without leaves, roads flooded, and many houses without roofs. Many beaches were eroded and sand was on the roads and in people's houses.

Hurricane season is June 1 – Nov. 30, six months long. During the hurricane season my family and I listen to the news and weather every day. When we learned about Hurricane Sandy, we watched the weather reports and tracked the storm on the National Hurricane website. When we learned that the storm was coming to Delaware, we went grocery shopping and bought batteries, flashlights, movies, and extra food. Then we locked all the windows in our house and put all the things that could blow away in the yard and put them in the garage. Some of our neighbors put boards on their windows. We packed a bag of medicine, clothes, video games, and important papers in case we had to leave the house if the roof blew off or there was flooding.

During Hurricane Sandy, Rehoboth Beach received five inches rain and the storm surge washed away some of the sand dunes and beaches. The boardwalk and the houses nearby did not have much damage. But when the sand was washed away, the beach was left muddy and rocky. One mile of Delaware coastal wetlands was also damaged by the hurricane storm surge.

The Delaware wetlands are important for horseshoe crabs and migrating birds. During hurricanes, wetlands can absorb the water and prevent flooding to the land nearby. Dunes are sandy hills formed by the wind and protect the boardwalk and nearby houses form storm surge during hurricanes. To protect dunes it is important that people don’t flatten dunes by walking or driving them. After the storm, Rehoboth Beach fixed their sand dunes and added new sand. They also replanted trees to repair the wetlands.

We are happy that the storm did not damage our house or our neighbors. But are sad to see all of the damage to the New Jersey beaches, boardwalks, and houses. I have learned a lot about hurricanes, wetlands, and dunes and why they are important.

Article by Teresa Messmore

Photos by Evan Krape

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