Who is Up to the Challenge?

Has the thought ever crossed your mind that there should be a program to encourage our young people to participate in environmental education? Well, there is a program specifically geared toward reaching high school age students worldwide. It is organized by the NFC-Envirothon and is a program of the National Conservation Foundation, located in Washington, DC. The program is held in the United States, Canada, and China. The program involves in-class and hands-on environmental education with a competitive twist. It is appropriately named Envirothon.

I would like to share a little history I read about the Envirothon’s beginning. In 1979, the Pennsylvania Soil and Water Conservation District held the first Environmental Olympics. The Environmental Olympics purpose was to create an interest for high school aged students regarding our natural resources and environmental concerns through spirited completion. Park of the programs intent to spark an interest in students to seek careers regarding our natural resources and environmental issues. The name of the Environmental Olympics was shorted to Enviro-Olympics. This hands-on outdoor competition quickly became popular. The competition and the challenges were hard to resist for young inquiring minds. In 1988, the Enviro-Olympics became known as the Envirothon. The first Ohio Envirothon was held in 1988, right here in Muskingum County. More states became involved in the competition, and the first National Envirothon became a reality. At the national level, the best from each state completed. In 1992, the first Canadian team from Nova Scotia entered the competition. In 2014 the Envirothon became a program of the National Conservation Foundation known as NCF-Envirothon. In 2016, China became a partner nation and held its first competition for students in China, and it continues to grow today.

So, what exactly is the Envirothon? It is an annual environmental education competition geared toward 9th to 12th grade high school students ages 14 to 18. It encourages them to learn and develop an appreciation for our natural resources. There are usually five members on a team and two adult advisors. Team members must be from the same high school and can include homeschool students. The Envirothon allows students the opportunity to get in-class and hands-on experience in the fields of aquatic ecology, forestry, soils and land use, and wildlife. There is a fifth subtopic that changes annually and focuses on current environmental issues. Teams will be tested in the topic areas and provide a problem-solving presentation as well as written reports of field tests, which will be judged. These teams compete on local, state, and national levels. When a team wins, they move to the next level of competition.

The National level of competition is a big deal. It is held in the summer, and the location changes annually. It is hosted in the USA or Canada. The competition is a week-long event and involves field trips, workshops, and seminars which are geared toward issues, topics, and information about the competition location. Each team must complete five written field tests, each dealing with the five topics mentioned earlier. The tests involve identification questions and hands-on assessments. The results are presented in an oral presentation, which will be judged. It is important that teams each present an understanding of how topics are interrelated, and how human activities, whether good or bad, affect the ecosystem. The winning team receives prizes and/or scholarships.

The exciting news about the 2022 National Envirothon is it is being hosted in Ohio! The event will be held July 24-30, 2022 at Miami University, Oxford Ohio. The National competition planning encompasses so many areas i.e., location, housing and meals for competitors, competition topics, etc. It takes months to plan. The host state also must raise the money for the cost of the event. You can find more information about the National competition by visiting https://envirothon.org/the-competition/current-competition/. There is information on this site to learn how you can contribute toward this worthwhile experience for the youth of today.

When I started with the District two years ago, I attended the OFSWCD Annual Meeting and learned about the Envirothon and listened to people who competed in the Envirothon in the past and who are now in positions organizing the event was inspiring.

Image Credit: NCF-Envirothon

Environmental Conservation Organization

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