OXFORD, Ohio — Not every teenager would be interested in putting away their cell phones to spend a wet week on an Ohio farm, testing their knowledge of natural resources and brainstorming ways to turn trash into resources.
But the teenagers who gathered for the International Envirothon in late July are a special group.
“These students are some of the best,” said Jennifer Brooks, Envirothon program manager for the National Conservation Foundation.
The week-long gathering was the highest level of competition for participants. The location of the international competition changes every year. This year it was held July 24-29 on the University of Miami campus and at the university’s Center for Ecological Research near Oxford, Ohio.
The National Conservation Foundation coordinated the event with help from the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and many other local sponsors and volunteers. Planning and preparation for the contest began two years ago and involved soil and water conservation districts from across Ohio, said Irene Moore, district administrator for the Soil and Water Conservation District. Jefferson water.
She estimated that more than 60 SWCD volunteers turned out to help out the week of the competition, in addition to the many who helped with preparation in advance.
Moore, who plans to retire this winter after a 35-year career, said she didn’t want to miss the opportunity to compete internationally after helping coordinate local and national envirothons for many years.
“I stayed for that,” she said, pointing to the students gathered for lunch on the opening day of this year’s competition.
This year, 40 teams representing states and provinces from the United States and Canada came together to compete. A total of approximately 25,000 students from the United States, Canada, and China participate in the National Conservation Foundation’s Envirothon program each year.
To make it to the International Envirothon, they must progress through local and regional competitions to be selected to represent their state or province. Students compete in teams of five members and are assessed on their knowledge in five categories: soils, aquatic ecology, wildlife, forestry and a current environmental issue.
For 2022, the current problem was “From waste to resources”. This year was the first in-person international competition since 2019. The event had to be canceled in 2020 due to COVID and last year the competition was held virtually.
Chinese teams have still not been able to participate this year due to COVID-related travel restrictions.
The International Envirothon begins with a day of training to familiarize participants with local environmental conditions. Then the teams are tested on their knowledge and they also prepare an oral presentation on a real-world conservation issue, Moore said. The team representing Massachusetts placed first in this year’s contest. Team Maryland placed second and Team Florida placed third. Smithfield Foods and other sponsors provided over $30,000 in scholarships to top teams.
The Envirothon training and competition gives high school students a chance to learn about environmental issues and conservation-related careers, said Keith Owen, director of education for the National Association of Conservation Districts. “It’s the start of a career pipeline,” he said.
The envirothon program is also a benefit for students who end up pursuing other careers because it teaches them about teamwork and helps them learn to look at different sides of a problem, Brooks said.
“We don’t teach them what to think. We teach them to think,” she said.
It’s also important to understand environmental issues, she said. “They are going to be voters.”
While attending the Envirothon is the start of a career path for some students, for others it’s a way to explore interests, Brooks said.
Tristen Hallett, a member of the team representing New Brunswick, Canada, is particularly interested in the forestry component of the competition.
“Botany is almost an obsession for me,” he said. He is considering careers related to forestry, but whatever he does, he wants to work outside.
Daphne Cannon, a 2022 graduate of Centerville High School in Ohio, said the environmental competition helped her settle into a top school. She is a member of the team representing Ohio internationally and will start at Ohio University later this year majoring in environmental science and sustainability. She particularly enjoys working with her envirothon teammates to find solutions to environmental issues.
“It’s super fun because it involves a lot of teamwork,” she said.
Savanna Prescott is also continuing her participation in the environmentthon in a university major. She is a 2022 graduate of Spartanburg High School and a member of the team representing South Carolina who will study environmental science in college. One of her high school teachers recruited her to be part of the school’s environmental team, but she didn’t realize how far she could go with the competition, he said. she declared.
Attending the Envirothon can also help students discover new interests. Chloe Greek is a sophomore at Hamilton High School in Montana and a member of the team representing her state.
She said she only got involved with her school’s environmental team because her older sister convinced her. At first she was reluctant to study soils, but then she realized how interesting they were and how much she loved the envirothon competition.
“I will definitely do it again,” she said.
More information about the National Conservation Foundation’s Envirothon program is available from local Soil and Water Conservation Districts or online at envirothon.org.
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