Envirothon team going to state contest
Stir close to a hundred teens from eight different high schools into a beautiful, breezy day at Lake Bemidji State Park and what do you get? A lot of energy creatively channeled into the annual hands-on Envirothon competition, sponsored by the Ar...
Stir close to a hundred teens from eight different high schools into a beautiful, breezy day at Lake Bemidji State Park and what do you get? A lot of energy creatively channeled into the annual hands-on Envirothon competition, sponsored by the Area Eight Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs).
Wednesday's Envirothon actually began deep in the winter, when high schools as far apart as Lake of the Woods, Grand Rapids and Brainerd received invitations from SWCD to compete in this spring's event.
Interested environmental studies and general science teachers from eight schools responded and recruited 20 teams of up to five students each. The day's participating schools were Brainerd, Clearbrook-Gonvick, Crosby-Ironton, Freshwater/Menahga, Grand Rapids, Lake of the Woods, Park Rapids, and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
Each team worked together to develop a bank of knowledge about the five assigned topics of soil, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife and environmental current events (this year focusing especially on renewable energy sources).
Locations for each topic were set up throughout the woods around the lakeshore picnic shelter (a welcome source for all-morning snacks and a noon picnic lunch).
Teams rotated from one to another until each team had visited all five locations, hearing additional information about each topic and working together on answers to a quiz on each one.
This observer wrestled with a wide range of quiz items that were challenging in different practical ways.
Which species of animals poses venomous saliva? (Very useful to know when walking in the woods.)
Which of the two species of swans native to North America breeds and nests in Minnesota? (Added to my sense of responsibility for protecting the habitat of these beautiful creatures.)
What is the texture of the soil in the prescribed area? (Sharpened my awareness of the diversity in the good earth all around us.)
What are the three major biomes found in Minnesota, and where are they located? (Expanded my appreciation for Minnesota's natural diversity.)
The three highest scoring teams were Park Rapids with one team in first place and another tied for fourth, with a Grand Rapids team coming in second. These three teams will compete in the State Envirothon in May. Winners from there will represent Minnesota in the National Envirothon in June.
Each team also presented to a panel of judges their proposed solution to the assigned challenge of designing a new high school using best "green" design, materials and construction methods. This stimulated an ingenious variety of maps, models and designs, clearly showing the teams' research in a wide range of related environmental fields.
Presentations were judged on the quality of their data and their presentation, with Park Rapids again supplying the winning team, who will also take their presentation to the state competition.
This very full day closed with all participants gathering in the park amphitheater for the day's awards. Though full of energy and fun, participants showed their developing commitment to our natural environment throughout the day, finally with their intent listening as the winning team gave their presentation for all participants to hear.
Begun in Pennsylvania in 1979, the Envirothon came to the Twin Cities area in 1993 with 100 students taking part. By 1996, all SWCD districts held area competitions. Now more than 1,200 students participate throughout the state.
The entire program emphasizes many practical ways students and others can take part in protecting our natural environment; students and teachers from all the participating schools are to be congratulated for their over and above commitment of time and energy in preparing to be better environmental citizens.
"We observers were heartened for our earth's future by the interest and commitment expressed by these upcoming conservationists of our irreplaceable natural world."
(Rachel Scott is a park volunteer from Bemidji.)