Masha Scheele photo
Teams from Hinton and Edson were the only competitors in the Envirothon during the past two years, but they’re about to get a lot more competition with three more teams joining in 2019.
Up to 15 teams of high school students have competed in the environmental education competition in the past from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the North West Territories, but this changed when there wasn’t an official provincial board to run the event.
Originally, the Alberta government took part in organizing the event, but after some internal changes organizers didn’t have the capacity to host the event anymore, according to Chantelle Bambrick, who joined the Envirothon board in January of 2018 and is now the president.
“The board was left with key positions being vacant and nobody really to take that workload. The board sat and did what they could to support Edson holding the regional event,” explained Bambrick.
Schools in Alberta were open to host regional events but only Edson organized an Envirothon in 2017 and 2018, said Bambrick.
“Parkland High School has a really good person there who really loves this program and really works towards this program and so she wanted to keep it alive. It has kind of fallen away and so she didn’t know how to keep it alive other than try to get people that she knew around her to compete,” said Jennifer Wotton, science teacher at Harry Collinge High School.
Without any teams for Edson to compete against Wotton was asked if she could put in a team.
“Envirothon used to be actually quite large and huge and Hinton never ever competed and I don’t know why,” said Wotton.
This year, Wotton registered her team for the third year in a row. The provincial board gathered together in 2018 for a strategic workshop in an attempt to get more people involved in the board and manage the workload.
“We were very successful. We have a really good core group of 12 to 14 board members over the last year planning this event. And that’s why we were able to host the event in Hinton again,” Bambrick said.
Teams from Edson, Hinton, Morinville, Whitecourt, and Grand Prairie will all take part of this year’s Envirothon, said Bambrick.
Competitors are judged in two separate challenges; a presentation on a given scenario using science and research to solve environmental issues and; field exams based on five core topics. Teams of five students are led by a teacher advisor or volunteer and meet throughout the school year to learn about soils and land-use, aquatics, forestry, wildlife and a the current theme, which is Agriculture and the Environment: Knowledge & Technology to Feed the World.
“We’ve been going out with people from West Fraser. They’ve been coming out with us after school and teaching us forestry,” said Wotton.
Students were given the scenario in March, which they must research and prepare an oral presentation on.
“It’s pretty intense for these five high school kids to be standing in front of adults who are all professionals of a particular thing they are
presenting on. There’s a forestry professional, there’s an aquatics professional all sitting there,” said Wotton.
The top three teams win cash prizes and individual trophies, and the winning team is eligible to compete at the North American Envirothon finals, being held in North Carolina this year.
“I feel like we are better prepared this year. We actually went out and did more stuff like measuring the height of a tree and going out looking at plants, where previously we hadn’t had the chance to do that beforehand,” said Grade 12 student, Shané Pretorius of her third time participating in the Envirothon.
Pretorius and Jamie Rahn are returning members to the Hinton Envirothon team, while three students are new this year: Ronan Tew, Colton Rowley, and Ethan Jahnke.
“I think this [uses] a lot of problem solving skills, you get a scenario and you don’t get a lot of background information. So you have to figure out how to solve these problems in a short amount of time, which is I think a helpful skill to use in the future,” added Pretorius.
Bambrick hopes that the competition pushes more students to seek out further environmental education.
“I hope that we get some kids who are really passionate in caring for the environment and learning how things kind of all work together so that we can have more kids going off to school to become foresters, or wildlife biologists or whatever it is. I think it can really spark a career interest in kids,” said Bambrick.
Alberta’s Envirothon was established in 1997 as an annual provincial competition, aiming to increase students’ knowledge of environmental science and natural resource management.
The symposium and competition takes place at the Hinton Training Centre (HTC) on May 23 and 24.
Learn more about the competition on albertaenvirothon.org.