By Jessica Creagan
WABASSO -- An annual contest to encourage students to engage in and take ownership of their environment is underway.
The Environmental Learning Center in Wabasso is accepting entries in the 18th annual "Making a Difference in My World" contest, open for students from kindergarten through the fifth grade.
Once again, the contest theme correlates with the learning center's spring EcoFest theme, "Go Native!" said Holly Dill, executive director of the Environmental Learning Center.
Go Native! emphasizes the area's flora and fauna and each grade level has its own specific project types and subjects to focus on, she said.
Projects include habitat dioramas, designing postcards, license plates or T-shirts featuring a native plant or animal, drawing pictures, using recycled materials and even writing stories.
The contest is open to any kindergarten to fifth grade student, whether public, private, independent or homeschooled, Ms. Dill said.
There is no charge to enter the contest and teachers and parents should read the entry rules carefully to avoid disqualification, a press release said.
"We typically have between 1,000 and 1,500 entries for this contest. Our largest classroom is filled with entries, they are everywhere," Ms. Dill said with a chuckle.
Volunteer judges will help narrow the field of competitors down to the winners.
The first, second and third place winners in each category for each grade will be on special display during EcoFest on March 2 and will win a gift certificate to the learning center's gift shop, "The Nature Nook," as will the teacher of the winning students, Ms. Dill said.
"All of the participants will be on display during EcoFest and some of them will blow your mind," she said.
The things children learn and absorb about the natural resources, and the way they creatively and originally present them are wonderful to see, Ms. Dill said.
Plans for EcoFest are going well and with a lot of the emphasis being placed on lagoon health, the Environmental Learning Center is hopeful that people will take more notice of the ecological ramifications of their decisions and make ones that positively affect the environment, Ms. Dill said.
"This is a very timely theme," she said.
For more information about the Environmental Learning Center or upcoming activities, call (772) 589-5050 or visit www.discoverelc.org.