The setting for this year’s high school Envirothon, Sholan Farms in Leominster, Mass., could not have been more beautiful, nor more appropriate.
Leominster is the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed, an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to many U.S. states. His leadership in conservation and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples were a fitting connection to this year’s topic: Sustainable Local Agriculture.
The hard work, curiosity and environmental passion of 31 teams of high school students and their teacher-coaches was obvious from start to finish. The all-day environmental competition showcased serious student investment in learning about this timely issue. All schools gave a 15-minute presentation on Sustainable Local Agriculture to a panel of judges. They also 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. The 250 students, nearly all sporting team t-shirts with specific scientific designs (and a few with dandelion crowns), competed for the top prize, a chance to represent Massachusetts in the national competition this summer. And that honor went to Newton North High School.
According to Will Snyder, Mass Envirothon Steering Committee Chair and Extension Educator with the UMass Amherst Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, “The Envirothon is more than just a competition about environmental knowledge. It’s a gathering of the environmental community of Massachusetts. It aims to prepare the next generation for the stewardship work that needs to be done.”
Fifteen federal and state environmental agencies, conservation districts, non-profit organizations, higher educational institutions, and businesses provided expertise and help to organize this statewide event.
The working title for Mass. Envirothon’s 2015 Current Issue is, “Local Response to Climate Change.”
For more information, visit the Massachusetts Envirothon website