Watershed School students participate in Envirothon
On May 24, three students from The Watershed School in Rockland traveled to Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor to compete in the Downeast/Central Regional Envirothon, one of four regional events that are part of the annual Maine Envirothon.
They had been preparing for two months to face 25 other teams in a competition that would test their hands-on knowledge of forestry, soils, aquatics, wildlife, and this year’s current environmental topic, non-point source pollution. Neither the school, the students, nor their volunteer advisors had participated in the Envirothon before and all agreed that the learning curve was steep. Nonetheless, the team felt that it was worth it and enjoyed the chance to learn from and with each other. And, the team was proud that they placed in the middle of the pack of 26 teams — especially since preparation often begins in the fall and the Midcoast students came together as a team only in early March.
Hunter Schade, a sophomore and outdoorsman from Camden, found the competitive component of the event to be “more motivational than cutthroat,” which made the daylong contest a good time. When asked what she had taken away from the experience, Hannah Haendschke, a junior and exchange student from Germany who will be heading to Moscow for her final year of high school, appreciated the opportunity to “see how everything is connected.” Senior Reid Evans, who will attend Hampshire College in the fall, added that he was impressed by the soil pit at the competition — a hole in the ground big enough to hold several students at once! Although Haendschke and Evans will be off on new adventures, Schade hopes to find two or three interested students to form another Watershed School team for next year’s competition.
Volunteer advisor Daniel Goettel, soil scientist and volunteer with Knox-Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District, coordinated the team’s study sessions and met with students weekly to go over reference materials and study guides provided by the state Envirothon. He and other volunteers, including Rob Lovell of Rockport and Peter Lammert of Thomaston, took the students off-site to get real-world experience examining soil profiles and wetlands, and identifying trees in the woods. As the competition drew near, Brett Willard, AmeriCorps environmental educator at Merryspring Nature Center in Camden, stepped in to guide the development of the team’s project and presentation on how non-point source pollution is affecting Lindsay Brook in Rockland. Using photos, the team defined and described areas along the brook affected by NPS and suggested low-impact development plans to curb the effects of that pollution, which included a cost estimate, time line, and opportunities for community involvement. Willard noted that the students did an amazing job and tackled concepts that he wasn’t exposed to well into working on an undergraduate degree in environmental science.
The Maine Envirothon is a program of the Maine Association of Conservation Districts and is held every spring to promote environmental education both inside and outside the classroom. The program’s goal is to increase students’ outdoor skills and scientific knowledge about Maine’s natural resources so that they can make informed decisions about the environment. Top teams at the regional level compete at the state finals and the winning state team goes on to a national competition. This year’s state winner, Spruce Mountain High School/North Campus Team 1, will represent Maine at the International Canon Envirothon competition to be held at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania in late July. In 2012, Envirothon team members were eligible to apply for and received four $2,000 scholarships from University of Maine College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture; School of Forest Resources; and the College of Engineering.
To learn more about Envirothon and how to participate in 2013 as a team member, advisor, school or teacher, visit the Maine Envirothon at maineswcds.org/envirothon, or contact Knox-Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District at 596-2040, firstname.lastname@example.org or knox-lincoln.org.
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