school is a time to explore interests and discover passions, with a seemingly
endless array of options. For a growing number
of Pennsylvania students, their extra-curricular activity of choice involves
digging in the dirt, identifying bones, bugs and leaves, testing water
chemistry, and brainstorming solutions to current environmental issues.
students spend hundreds of hours each year working in teams, with the help of
advisors, to compete for scholarships (and bragging rights) in the premier
natural resource and environmental science program known as Envirothon.
team consists of five high school students who compete in field-testing their
knowledge in five topic areas: Soils and Land Use, Aquatic Ecology, Forestry,
Wildlife, and Environmental Issues. The environmental issue is the year’s “hot
2017 issue, “Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Stewardship,” tasked the
teams with pitching their plans to a fictional couple looking to purchase their
first farm. The teams prepared a proposal that improved soil and water quality,
while allowing the couple to build a viable farming business that would sustain
their family and enrich their local community.
success relies heavily on a corps of environmental professionals from
non-profit, government, and academic institutions who serve as judges,
scorekeepers, and chaperones.
life’s work and my hobbies are all tied in some form or fashion to Envirothon
topics,” said Fred Fiscus, chief of DEP’s Conservation District Support
Section, who served as a judge. “I was impressed by the students’ knowledge of
the subject matter, and their creative solutions to the oral component.”
Books, a water program specialist for DEP, is a member of the Envirothon Board
of Directors and helps plan and execute the annual event. She also participated
in an Envirothon herself as a student at the county and state levels.
is always rewarding to see the knowledge of the students and the effort they
put into preparing for the competition,” said Books. “We hope these students
become citizens and leaders in our community who care for our natural resources.”
Gimbel, executive assistant in DEP’s Office of Water Resources Planning, agrees.
“Envirothon is a natural first step toward a career in environmental protection
and conservation for many students, but I think the benefits extend to all of the
participants, regardless of their career paths,” said Gimbel, who served as an
oral competition judge. “Envirothon increases their knowledge of complicated
environmental issues, and that advances DEP’s mission of environmental
protection, and public health and safety.”
began in Pennsylvania and has grown into an international program. In 1979, the
Fulton, Luzerne, and Schuylkill county conservation districts created an
“Envirolympics” competition. Over the past 38 years, Envirothon at the county
and state levels have expanded to include 15,000 high school students from all
67 Pennsylvania counties. The North American Envirothon was launched in 1988,
and has recently included teams from Canada and China.
powerhouse Delaware County won this year’s competition, with close competition
from Lebanon County and Greene County in second and third place, respectively. Delaware
County will go on to the North American Envirothon competition in Emmitsburg,
To learn more,
visit the Pennsylvania Envirothon website. The Pennsylvania Envirothon program is
partially funded through a DEP Environmental Education grant.