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No slacking off for environmental scholars

May 24, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

MONT ALTO, Pa. - While outdoors and far from their classrooms, the students participating in a statewide Envirothon this week still took tests, witnessed demonstrations and completed projects in the environmental sciences.

The campus of Penn State Mont Alto on Monday and Tuesday was home to 320 high school students participating in the Envirothon, which is touted as a hands-on learning experience by educators.

The 23rd Envirothon, run by about 60 volunteers, was attended by 64 three- to five-member teams competing in the fields of aquatic ecology, forestry, soil/land use and wildlife and learning about water stewardship in a changing climate.

"Each team that is here had to compete in one of the county competitions," Event Coordinator Lorelle Steach said.

The Envirothon was originally launched by three conservation districts in Pennsylvania and has now spread to 45 states and seven Canadian provinces.

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"It was formerly known as the Enviro-Olympics," Steach said. "It just evolved from three counties."

The "Awesome Four" team from Cambridge Springs High School, near Erie, Pa., traveled almost five hours to participate in the Envirothon. Each of the team members focused on his or her own topic of study, students said.

"Everyone learns about all the topics. You just go more in-depth with (yours)," Hannah Flood, senior, said.

The team from Lower Dauphin High School, in Hummelstown, Pa., split up the studies in the same manner.

"Everyone becomes an expert. Each meeting is focused on a topic,"said Joe Roksandic, a senior.

He described environmental sciences as "kind of a hobby thing for me," while Flood said she will major in biology in college.

Southern Fulton High School represented Fulton County. Team members included: Jessie Murray, Kari Powell, Adam Miller, Zach Mellott and Jake Mitchell.

Franklin County was represented by a team from Waynesboro (Pa.) Area Senior High School. Team members included: Autumn Phillips, Mike Mishler, Laura Rock, Laura Fawks and Preston Cook.

Their teams were on the same rotation circuit moving between stations where they were asked to test the chemical makeup of water, identify types of trees, answer questions about state game law and suggest land uses based on soil type. At a discovery station, they were not quizzed, but were given the opportunity to cut logs and throw axes at a target under the guidance of the Penn State Mont Alto Woodsmen's Team.

Shane Rothermel, a senior from Lehighton Area High School in Carbon County, joked the ax throwing was "not my thing" after missing the target several times.

One team, selected through the station scores and oral presentations, will represent Pennsylvania at the Canon Envirothon held in Canada.

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