Perry Hall High School finished second at this year’s Baltimore County Envirothon and narrowly missed out on the Maryland state finals to be held in June. The results were read out over lunch in Oregon Ridge Park as Perry Hall learned they had beaten 23 teams from 16 other schools, but not Hereford High School. They came so close to winning.
Of the other teams, the Western School of Technology and Environmental Science came third with Baltimore’s George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology in fourth. For most though, it was the taking part that mattered the most as the envirothon had been the culmination of months of study in class.
The Maryland envirothon at both county and state level are sponsored by the State Soil Conservation Committee and the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, as well as a range of federal and state programs relating to education and the environment.
Held at the Oregon Ridge Park Lodge north of Baltimore and just west of Cockeysville, the envirothon involved five stations. Those taking part are divided into teams based on their school. Students are selected either through a specific class or through club membership and is open to students in grades 9-12. The competition is divided into five stations or subjects. Students must complete written or oral assessments and must answer questions at each station. These five stations are as follows.
The Wildlife station is broken down into three topics. These are wildlife ecology, wildlife legislation and lastly, wildlife management. This section can include ageing and sexing animals, legislation on hunting and trapping particular species or the management of animal populations. The state and educators provide study guides for this such as the Maryland Hunting and Trapping guide.
The Forestry section covers practical skills such as identifying tree species. Students will also be expected to know how to estimate the height of a tree and also its age without taking a core sample for dendrochronological research. Students were also assessed on management techniques for individual trees and forest lands as a whole. As with the wildlife station, there are study guides for students interested in learning more. Such books and guides are available from online retailers.
As many farmers know, a person cannot just plant anything in the soil and expect it to grow. The Soils station of the contest assesses the student’s knowledge of soil mapping techniques and farming development. When studying, students usually work alongside scientists to develop their knowledge of these areas.
While the previous three topics look at three elements of the dry ground environment, Aquatics combines all three in the marine and freshwater environments. Underwater ecosystems are complex things and students were assessed on their knowledge of this, of wetland and river management, as well as the use of buffers.
The final section, Environmental Issues (also known as current issues) covers areas of the environment in the news. This could include hot topics of the time to matters important to the future of the land. For example, issues surrounding the expansion of towns and cities into farmland. Should cities grow upwards instead of outwards? A topical question in 2011 might have been the effects of oil spills on the marine environment or rising sea levels. To do well in this subject students need to keep an eye on the environment sections of local and national newspapers and magazines.
In Oregon Ridge Park these stations took the form of live animals in bowls on a table for the wildlife section or a small trench with the soil thrown aside for the soils section. Starting at 8:30am, Perry Hall were given half an hour to complete each station and move on to the next. Several teams found the forestry section hard going, but enjoyed the overall competition. Perry Hall had little time to enjoy their near success though because as soon as lunch was over they were back in their bus and heading home.
Perry Hall will now have to congratulate themselves on a good performance, take into account the valuable life lessons they learned throughout the course of their studies and hope to go one better next year. Meanwhile, Hereford will be preparing themselves for the state finals in the hope of making the national envirothon later on, which will be held at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. Whichever team wins the state contest, they will hope to better Maryland’s fifth place finish at the inaugural Canon Envirothon in 2010.