By Diane Petit
LINCOLN, Mass., May 18, 2017 – The message from teenagers who participated in this year’s Massachusetts Envirothon environmental education program was clear: local agriculture is booming in Massachusetts. For the past school year, they’ve been researching farming in their communities – from urban community gardens to rural orchards and pastures, from row crops to working forests – and assessing its benefits and its effects on local land and water resources, ecosystems and biodiversity.
Those 250 students from nearly 40 Massachusetts communities converged on Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, Mass. on Thursday, May 18th to compete in the 30th annual Massachusetts Envirothon. At the event, they presented what they’ve learned about agricultural soil and water conservation, and tested their knowledge of the area’s soils, forests, water, and wildlife.
At the outdoor field competition event, teams rotated through four “ecostations” where they answered written questions and engaged in hands-on activities such as soil analysis, wildlife habitat assessment, tree identification, and water quality measures. Each team had up to 10 participants and split into specialized sub-teams during the competition, each focusing their efforts at different ecostations.
At the fifth station, the Current Issue, each team gave a 15-minute presentation to a panel of judges about their research into “Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation” in their own community. Each panel of judges included concerned citizens and environmental professionals from government agencies, non-profit organizations, academia and private industry. Teams were asked to assess the potential for producing local food, given the soil, water, and people resources in their community, and to recommend what might be done to protect and enhance soil health and water quality at the same time.
Lexington High School took the top honor with Newton South and Newtown North High Schools in 2nd and 3rd place. Students from Lexington High School will now compete with winning teams from each state and Canada on July 23-27 at Mount St. Mary's University, Emmitsburg, Maryland.
“For years, the Envirothon has been challenging Massachusetts students in an effort to educate and prepare solutions for environmental,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “By engaging today’s youth on subjects such as farming, we are ensuring the next generation will have the passion, dedication, and desire to ensure Massachusetts’ agricultural sector continues to thrive in every region of the state.”
“These teams work hard getting to know their local ecosystems and how their communities depend on them. We test their scientific knowledge, but we also like to hear their stories about how they have gotten muddy, cold, and tired, and otherwise had fun and fallen in love with nature in their neighborhood. The best hope for the future comes from engaged, scientifically literate citizens who care about their communities and the environment,” said Massachusetts Envirothon Steering Committee Chair Will Snyder of the University of Massachusetts Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment.
The current issue for 2018 will be “Western Rangeland Management: Balancing Diverse Views.” The competition for North America will be held July 22- July 26, 2018 in Pocatello, Idaho.