Envirothon is the time for STEM students to shine

2022 International Envirothon
Jessica Burns, a soil scientist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, points out soil horizons to participants in the International Envirothon during a training day, July 25, 2022. Ohio hosted 40 teams from across the U.S. and Canada for the top level of competition this year. (Gail Keck photo)

It is the time of year when many SWCDs are busy preparing for Envirothon. It is the opportunity to encourage and nurture the love of our natural resources within students and to show the students how the disciplines of STEM and the environment all connect in some amazingly awesome way. It also serves as a way to raise awareness as to the importance in finding a way to balance the world’s need for quality of life while at the same time maintaining and improving the quality of our environment.

What is Envirothon?

The Envirothon is North America’s largest high school environmental competition. Started in 1979 by the Pennsylvania soil and water conservation districts as the Environmental Olympics, its purpose was to encourage high school students to become aware of environmental issues and concerns and choose careers to continue their work in environmental matters.

The program continued to grow and now more than 50,000 students from across North America annually compete fulfilling the mission of the National Conservation Foundation “to educate and prepare conservation leaders for the sustainability and regeneration of our natural resources.”

In order to accomplish this mission, our SWCDs work diligently to meet several goals of Envirothon:

1. Promote a passion to learn more about the environment by ensuring students have the knowledge and skill set to apply to natural resource management so that they can then resolve complex environmental concerns;

2. Promote the stewardship (a word found in many of our SWCD mission and vision statements) of natural resources and encourage students to cooperatively work together using critical thinking and sound decision-making to achieve and maintain a balance of quality of life and the environment.

3. Through hands-on outdoor experiences, academic study and collaborative competitions, Envirothon encourages students to become actively aware of the importance of our environment and natural resources and to grow into environmentally pro-active citizens.

Teams consisting of five high school age (14-19 years old) students from participating public and parochial schools, FFA chapters, home study groups and environmental clubs begin studying well in advance of the event.

They use hard copy, web-based or electronic media resource guides created by their local Soil and Water Conservation Districts and materials provided by their volunteer advisors, usually teachers, to train for the Envirothon.

Studies have shown that many students learn best and absorb more when they have a hands-on experience and Envirothon is that kind of experience. Envirothon so gives students the opportunity to learn about natural resources outside of the classroom.

It gives students a chance to learn about natural resources that we sometimes take for granted.

These students are not afraid to get their hands dirty in a soil pit, wander around in a forest to measure the basal areas of a tree, get wet in a stream identifying critters known as macroinvertebrates, track wildlife and learn of their habits.

Students also learn of and work to resolve a current environmental concern.

This year our current environmental issue is “Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Future.”

How can you get involved?

As a student, talk with your science teacher or environmental club advisor and form a team. It is never too early in your academic career to get involved and it is never too late to learn more either.

You do not have to be a student to get involved. There are plenty of sponsorship opportunities at the local, state and national competitions. You can also volunteer your time, talent and/or funds.

Envirothon is an opportunity for students to earn scholarships to further their education at universities and trade schools and earn certifications in a variety of careers. Students have gone on to work in agriculture which is vitally important to our world, they have become scientists, engineers, teachers, doctors and lawyers all working for the betterment of their communities. It is our responsibility today, though, to ensure our young people succeed in their academic pursuits.

Many soil and water conservation districts provide much of the funding for the Envirothon, but we are always looking for environmentally-minded sponsors who share our strong environmental ethic in protecting and preserving our natural resources for generations. Consider calling your nearest Soil and Water to see how you can help build our future through Envirothon. We thank you!

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