By Whitney Forman-Cook
WASHINGTON, June 17, 2016 – The National Association of Conservation Districts works in tandem with the National Conservation Foundation to implement nationwide programming that promotes conservation education. One of those efforts is the NCF Envirothon.
You might not be familiar with Envirothon, but trust me, you want to be. Envirothon is an international competition that sets the stage for students from all walks of life to show off their expertise in fundamental environmental sciences, including soils, forestry, aquatics, and wildlife. Every year, a fifth topic is added to the syllabi for students to master and later be quizzed on. This year, that fifth topic is invasive species.
Katie Stump, NACD’s Northeastern representative and policy specialist, grew up competing in Envirothon competitions in Maryland. In a few words, Envirothon is a quiz bowl competition that is held at the county, state, and international levels. The student teams typically are formed and supported by high schools, but can also be created by Girl Scout or Boy Scout troops, 4-H clubs, or other youth organizations.
Katie’s high school had an “A Team” and a “B Team” that competed at Envirothon competitions. I’ll let her tell you the rest:
Whitney: Tell me about your experience in Envirothon – how it started and why you got involved.
Katie: I started doing Envirothon my senior year of high school, after being in environmental club in the past and signing up to take AP environmental science. My environmental science teacher also happened to be the advisor for the Envirothon team, and because I’ve always been really competitive, especially in academic competitions, I thought joining the team would be really interesting opportunity for me.
So I started that summer – studying and doing trainings on how to identify species of trees and wildlife. The year I did Envirothon, the fifth topic was groundwater, so I studied that, too. To prepare for the written tests in soils, I studied soil profiles in the field, identifying the different layers and other soil properties from soil pits behind my school.
W: So how did you do? Did you win?
K: No, but we did really well! We got third place in a county in Maryland that is very competitive. It was really close, and a lot of fun.
W: So tell me more about your team. Did your team advisor hold practices for you?
K: Well there were two teams, an “A” and “B team,” of five students each that compete in separate competitions. The first place “A team” competes at the state level later in the year. Both teams attend practices leading up to competitions, and for me it was very intense. We met every day after school from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. We also had to prepare to give oral presentations as part of Envirothon competitions.
I keep in touch with some of my teammates. One of my teammates was actually my sister – so Envirothon is really a family thing for us. As far as I know though, I’m the only team member from that year that has gone on to join a career in environmental sciences. Envirothon is really why I’m doing what I’m doing.
W: That’s amazing! Tell me more about how Envirothon has shaped your career goals.
K: When I was in high school, I thought everything I could learn about environmental sciences – especially soils – was just so cool. For a long time, I wanted to be a soil scientist. I even studied soil science in college – one of my degrees is in environmental science with a focus on soils and land resources. Envirothon really got me on that path.
It’s funny because the people that help administer Envirothon are from conservation districts. And when I did the county competition, all the conservation district employees that were there would later be the people I worked with as an intern with NRCS.
It’s just a really great learning experience, much more in depth then what you would learn in an environmental science class. And it helps young people develop public speaking skills, too, which is so valuable.