This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Charles County Envirothon, a program that allows high school students to study the natural world while learning hands-on, practical skills in the areas of aquatics, forestry, soils, wildlife, and an annually changing fifth topic related to the environment. This year’s fifth topic is Adapting to a Changing Climate.
The Envirothon is a problem-solving academic competition that caps off a school year spent gleaning knowledge during seasonal trainings at the Charles Soil Conservation District. The program is made possible through grant funding from the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts.
The Envirothon program began in Charles County 30 years ago, thanks to the efforts of former conservation district employee, Aggie Higdon. Special guests Aggie Higdon and Polly Zimmerman were invited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the program. Zimmerman was one of the first coaches for the program, having taught at McDonough.
This year, Henry E. Lackey High School’s Team 2 collected 367 points and will represent Charles County in June at the Maryland Envirothon held at the Western 4H Park in Garrett County. At the state level, Team 2 members will compete against teams from high schools throughout Maryland. The team is made up of juniors Faith Rothell, Casey Klinger, Tiwaloluwa Dapo-Adeyemo, Simone Melson, and Beatrice Koffi. The team is coached by science teacher Amanda Hastings and Thomas Fawcett, academic mentor.
La Plata High School’s Team 3 racked up 363 points to come in second place, with Team 5 of Maurice J. McDonough High School earning 357 points to place in third.
“This is something that’s very related to what we are doing, and it piques a lot of the students’ interests,” said Paige Bennett, McDonough senior. “We have a lot of people with different backgrounds in agriculture. Everybody kind of has their own thing.”
Some students go into the trainings ready to soak up additional knowledge, like those enrolled in the CASE program housed McDonough, most of whom are interested in having a career in agriculture or likewise industries. Others join because the activity is tangentially connected to their interests, like Taylor Rozell, a North Point High School senior in the school’s Academy of Health Professions — Certified Nursing Assistant career and technical education (CTE) program. She doesn’t describe herself as the outdoorsy sort, but science has become a big part of her academic life. “I sort of got roped into doing it,” Rozell said of participating in Envirothon. “But I’m learning a lot.” She counts forestry as her favorite topic in the program.
If Lackey’s Team 2 advances at the state competition, the members will travel to Canada’s Mount Allison University in Tantramar, New Brunswick, for the North American contest on July 23 to 29. Students participating in next year’s Envirothon will begin training in October.
The Envirothon program has been providing high school students with an opportunity to explore and learn about the environment for 30 years, and this year’s competition promises to be another exciting event.