On April 10, 11 middle school teams came together at the Mill Creek MetroParks Farm in Canfield for the 2014 Junior Envirothon. The event was hosted by Mahoning Soil and Water Conservation District and was made possible through sponsorship and a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
MSWCD Director Kathi Vrable-Bryan said, ''The last time we held a middle school envirothon was in 2001. We wrote a grant to hold one this year and was awarded $5,000 from the Ohio EPA's Ohio Environmental Education Fund.''
Vrable-Bryan said the high school envirothon that is held at various locations around Northeast Ohio, is a totally different program. The lessons are shorter and the teams have a tougher set of questions than the junior version for middle schools. The high school event is being hosted in Huron County this year. The junior envirothon is a way middle school students can prepare to compete when they reach the high school level.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
The AMS Blue Envirothon Team competed in the 2014 Junior Envirothon at Mill Creek MetroParks Farm on April 10. Pictured are AMS science teacher Tracy Mackovick, and sixth grade team members Bethany Garcia, Gracie McWreath, Kathryn Shrake, Kamri Deley, Megan Magle, Kara Cunningham, and Marc Judy.
When Vrable-Bryan found out about the grant money, the application was sent in with the intent of bringing back the middle school event this year. Dennis Clement, environmental public information officer with the OEPA explained where the funding comes from.
''We have an environmental fund that comes from half of the fines we collect [in the state],'' he said.
With the grant in place and support from local entities, the 2014 Junior Envirothon was set and brought out teams from Austintown, Boardman, Lowellville, South Range and West Branch. Each team was made up of five students and one alternate. Austintown fielded a third team of alternates and Boardman teamed up with West Branch with their respective alternates to make a total of 11 teams.
The teams spent the morning Thursday rotating between five different stations, staffed by experts who gave a 20 minute talk, then gave the teams time to answer questions. Stations and those staffing them included aquatics with environmental program director Stephanie Dyer from Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, composting with rural recycling educator Kim Lewis from Mahoning County, soils with soil scientist Steve Perbonick from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, forestry with forestry supervisor James Brammer from Mill Creek MetroParks, and wildlife with forestry specialist Jason Reynolds from Columbiana SWCD and district technician Todd Miller from MSWCD.
For the Austintown Middle School teams, the event was an eye-opener and the students who took part learned a lot. AMS Red team captain Cecilia Segretario said she would like to take what learned and use the knowledge at home.
''I really enjoyed the composting station,'' she said. ''I would like to go home and try doing it.''
She and her teammates learned about the science behind composting and what could be put into a pile and what could not. She also learned the science behind how the compost breaks down to make it useable in the garden.
AMS Blue team captain Gracie McWreath found the forestry station interesting.
''We learned how to measure the diameter of a log,'' she said. ''One thing I enjoyed was learning about a tree that was considered a holy spot by Native Americans.''
Vrable-Bryan said the event gives students a feel for environmental issues and for a few, maybe a career path in that field, which was part of the talk Clement gave the students after a short lunch.
''I talked about career opportunities in hopes of inspiring some of the young people,'' he said. ''Not a lot of people are entering the science field and we will have a need to be met someday.''