Students act natural at Delaware Envirothon

CAMDEN — More than 100 students from across the state gathered in Brecknock Park Thursday morning to compete in the 21st annual Delaware Envirothon.

The Envirothon is an outdoor academic competition in which high school students in groups of five are tested on their environmental knowledge in various areas of expertise.

The students were required to go to three different stations and as a team had to demonstrate their knowledge of aquatic ecology, forestry, soils, wildlife, air quality and a special topic.

The special topic changes each year and this year was invasive species. The wide range of knowledge needed at each station required some strategic planning by the five-member teams.

Most teams came prepared to work together with every member focusing on one area of knowledge in particular.

“We each picked our own focus — what area interests us most but we made sure to know as much as we could about the other areas, too,” Polytech senior Marie Medina said. “And you can’t be afraid to ask your teammates questions because even if you can’t remember something in your own area, someone else may have studied it and remembered.”

Since Polytech is a vocational school, each student on the Envirothon team is following the environmental science track.

“This kind of competition is fun because we’re working on the field that we want to follow with our career. It’s fun, but that’s not the only reason we’re doing it,” Polytech senior Amanda Phillips said.

It was Amanda’s first environmental competition but her teammates were all experienced — Marie had more than 10 competitions under her belt — but they’d been practicing together for the Envirothon for weeks.

“The location is different every year so it’s nice that we go to school close to Brecknock and most of us live really close so we actually got to come out here last weekend to see what we might be tested on,” Marie said.

Lake Forest High School’s team also had each student focus on a certain area of the competition.

“We pretty much each followed the area we like best or are most familiar with,” freshman RJ Sheppard said. “So I focused on soil because my dad works on soil conservation for Caroline County (Maryland) so I’m already familiar with soil and my dad was able to help me get ready.”

In addition to the three test stops during the competition, each team gave a five- to six-minute presentation about invasive species; they were given the requirements at the beginning of March.

“Our presentation went really well,” Lake Forest freshman Abby Edwards said. “We each had our own part and a group portion, too.”

The students were expected to include outside research in their presentation. Teams were judged on an informational poster they created and on their public speaking abilities.

The Lake students’ environmental science teacher Wayne Hobbs said the Envirothon isn’t only a way for the kids to test their knowledge, it also helps them improve their knowledge, too.

“The competition aligns with our environmental-science curriculum so they can use what they learned in the classroom, but they have the opportunity to meet industry professionals here who are experts in the areas these kids might want to follow as a career,” he said.

Mr. Hobbs competed in the Envirothon three times while in high school and said that coming back as a teacher and coach that some of the coordinators remember him and they’re able to talk about the environmental-science topics as peer professionals now.

Each member of the winning team was awarded a $500 college scholarship. A complete list of winners will be posted at delawareenvirothon.org.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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