Ohio hosting international Envirothon competition

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The wind whips across the field with snow falling sideways. Sleet hits the rosy cheeks of excited high school students who have come to challenge their skills at the first level of the Envirothon competition. This was the scene of an area competition held in Geauga County not long ago. Rain, snow and sleet do not stop these amazing and determined students.

All across Ohio, as the leaves begin to fall, five-member teams begin honing their skills and knowledge to begin the Envirothon journey. Resource training bins are borrowed from local soil and water conservation districts, guest speakers present on current environmental topics, and after-school hands-on training sessions are scheduled. Soil samples are studied and identified, wildlife identification tested, Biltmore sticks are raised to measure trees, and dip nets slice the surface tension of streams collecting macro-invertebrates to study. These dedicated students, teachers and advisors go over and above to prepare for this international competition. It takes hard work and dedication to reach the level of excellence that is needed to succeed on to the next level.

Conservation legacy

Established in 1979, the National Conservation Foundation (NCF) – Envirothon is an environmental and natural resource conservation problem-solving, teambuilding and leadership experience for high school students. Every year, more than 25,000 students throughout the United States, Canada and China participate in this amazing educational program. Teams compete at different levels in hopes of representing their state or province at the international level. Participating teams are trained and tested in five natural resource categories: soils/land use, aquatic ecology, wildlife, forestry and a current environmental issue. The current environmental issue for the 2022 competition is “Waste to Resources.”

Ohio is divided regionally into five areas. Each of these areas holds a one-day area competition in early spring as the first level of competition. There is still time to participate! The teams rotate through four or five eco-testing stations. The following are dates and locations of the Ohio area competitions.

Area 1: April 27 – Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
Area 2: April 28 – Kent State-Salem
Area 3: April 27 – Caldwell Lake
Area 4: April 26 – Myeerah Nature Preserve
Area 5: April 26 – Tar Hollow State Park

The four highest-scoring teams from each area competition will advance to the state-level Ohio Envirothon, taking place this year on June 5, 6 and 7 at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio. Over the course of that three-day event, students will test their knowledge and compete for the chance to represent Ohio at the NCF- Envirothon annual international competition. In addition to testing their knowledge and skills in the five areas of study, the teams prepare and deliver oral presentations to a panel of judges who evaluate each team on its problem-solving capabilities, oral presentation skills and recommendations to help solve the specific environmental challenge which relates to the current environmental issue.

The Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Ohio Envirothon Committee are excited to be hosting the 2022 NCF-Envirothon annual international competition this summer. It has been over 30 years since Ohio hosted this international competition.

The weeklong event will take place from July 24-30 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Students, advisors, guests and volunteers will participate in various activities including: opening and closing ceremonies, training day, field testing, fun day at Kings Island amusement park and advisor tours. The teams will close out the week by giving oral presentations on a natural resource scenario in front of a panel of judges for scores. Over $30,000 in scholarships and awards will be awarded to the top-scoring teams in the end thanks to sponsors like Smithfield Foods, Inc.

This year’s CEI “Waste to Resources” key topics will include:

  • Landfills and hazardous materials
  • Reuse, recycling and waste diversion
  • Composting and food waste
  • Combustion with energy recovery
  • Human and animal waste treatment
  • Brownfields and the restoration of degraded lands

After such a challenging start to their high school experience, the Envirothon provides the opportunity for students to work together, solve problems, experience career options and unite in creating a hopeful future for our planet.

It takes many sponsors, volunteers, staff and advisors to put on this large competition. If you are interested in making a donation to help sponsor the event or have any other questions, please email Janelle Mead, jtmead@ofswcd.org or Jennifer Brooks, jbrooks@envirothon.org.

For more information on NCF- Envirothon, please visit www.envirothon.org.

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Katie Nainiger assists with education programming for Geauga SWCD and coordinates special projects including the Envirothon, Watershed Ripples newsletter, conservation poster contests, agricultural education and education brochures. Katie received her degree in wildlife management and interpretive services from Hocking College. She previously worked at Lake Metroparks Wildlife Center for 12 years as the wildlife education coordinator.

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