Clear Spring's FFA team fares well in international competition

August 15, 2006|by JEFF SEMLER

MANITOBA, Canada - There was an unusual gathering here of teenagers from 42 states and eight Canadian provinces a few weeks ago.

What is it that could bring more than 250 high school students together on their summer break?

The answer: The Canon Envirothon.

An Envirothon competition pits teams in five knowledge areas: aquatics, forestry, soils, wildlife and a fifth issue.

This year's fifth issue was "Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate." In addition to knowledge of the fifth issue, the teams had to give an oral presentation on a scenario dealing with the issue.

The team that represented Maryland was our very own Clear Spring High FFA.

These folks won the state contest back in June.

The team was made up of three recent graduates: Becky Funk, Sondra Lavigne and Derek Hanes. The balance of the team was sophomores Amy Ridenour and Adam Reid, and junior alternate, Brenna House. They were coached by FFA advisers Sue Lowery and Terrie Shank.


The young people had an excellent showing. They finished 15th overall, out of 52 participating teams.

In the individual areas, the team also made a grand showing, finishing eighth in aquatics, 14th in forestry, 15th in soils, 24th in wildlife and 6th in Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate.

In addition to the competition, the teams got to acquaint themselves with each other, starting the first evening after the opening ceremonies.

The youth had the opportunity to engage in a big swap meet. Teams from all over North America were trading T-shirts, bags, pins and other sundry items from their home states or provinces.

The next two days were a combination of training, cultural enrichment and fellowship. Monday brought a morning of intense training and then an afternoon of sightseeing, culminating with a picnic supper and a minor league baseball game. Winnipeg has a team known as the Goldeyes, named after a local fish (in the walleye family). While you might not think of Canada as a baseball hotbed, the Goldeyes lead the Northern League in attendance.

Tuesday brought more training and a trip to Oak Hammock Marsh, a 36-square-kilometer Wildlife Management Area that is one of North America's birding hot spots.

It features a restored prairie marsh, aspen-oak bluff, waterfowl lure crops, artesian springs, 30 kilometers of trails, and some of Manitoba's last remaining patches of tall-grass prairie - an endangered habitat.

Not only did the teams get to see a natural oasis, but they learned firsthand about water in a changing climate.

Then, we were off to Gimli, an Icelandic fishing village where the teams were fed a traditional fish fry and given some training on a research vessel on Lake Winnipeg, the 12th largest freshwater lake in the world.

Wednesday was the field testing, ending with a picnic supper catered by a local Hutterite community.

While similar to our Anabaptist Mennonite neighbors, they are different, as well. They are a communal people, living on scattered bruderhfe, or colonies, throughout the prairies in North America. This communal lifestyle finds its roots in the biblical teachings of Christ and the Apostles.

Thursday was a day of preparation. The teams were given their scenario, a space to prepare their presentation and props for the oral presentation on Friday.

Friday was the big day - oral presentations and then the final banquet, awards and Manitoba Social.

The results were welcome information after two very long days.

Maryland was represented well by the Blazers, and it was also heartening that the winning team was an FFA team from down in the Shenandoah Valley in Fort Defiance, Va.

The real treat for me was knowing that these students are all interested in our environment and willing to help heal it, based on science.

That is the key - reducing the impact of the human footprint on our environment - not on emotion or knee-jerk reaction, but based on science.

This point was brought home by one of the opening ceremony speakers and, I know, was taken to heart by at least the group from Maryland.

So, in the next week, why don't you try to reduce your impact on the environment?

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