Sunday, April 25, 2010

Envirothon Team of 2010

We made it to fourth place in the Envirothon this year which is amazing considering it's our first time, and it took until the end of the competition to really get my head around how it works.  WCI won again.

Here's photos of the event and some how-to notes for anyone interested in running a team at their school next year....

Your team will compete against others in the region, then maybe move to the provincials, and the international competition this year is being held in California for several weeks of July.  The students have to be extraordinarily self-motivated because they really have to learn all the information provided on the website.   I didn't take that seriously enough soon enough.  Parts of that website aren't accessible until you sign up officially - I guess so you don't cheat and start memorizing it in the summer.  In our region, they offer three fantastic workshops before the actual competition day, so plan to miss four days spread out over the course of the year.  Also plan to borrow or rent or own a van that can transport the students.  It's handy if a few of them have their G and can drive one another.

If you want to do it at all, get the team together in the first week of school.  I started late this year and missed out on the first really useful workshop. You need five people in a team, but it's good to have more in case someone is sick the day of the competition.  If you have enough people, you can submit two teams.  I tried to get each person to learn two sections of the material so they'd be able to cover each other, but there's so much information, that didn't really happen.

The material is divided into five sections:  soil, forestry, wildlife, aquatics, and a special topic which was groundwater this year.  By know everything I mean be able to identify what layer of soil a sample was taken from, label trees from a row of cut branches with the buds just starting on them, know all the types of bugs in the water and which ones indicate a healthy system, be able to label evidence of different kinds of animals and birds in a habitat, and lots, lots more!  Try to get someone with a background in environmental science to help you run it if possible.  My degree is in philosophy.  I just like hanging out in the woods.  I was pretty useless as an adviser, and I got lost driving to almost every workshop, but I enjoyed it and learned a ton. 

For the competition, you'll go to four different stations in a forested area with some water running through it somewhere.  At each station, the kids have 30 minutes to answer a test that often involves a hands-on component like collecting and labeling aquatic insects or measuring trees or estimating the number of trees in an area, or getting and labeling soil samples.  Teachers aren't allowed to help or say anything all day - thank goodness.  The special topic is tested through an 8 minute presentation that students have a chance to practice beforehand.  I think everyone should set aside every day after school for a week before the competition to work on the presentation because it's worth a lot of marks.  You only get the presentation question a week ahead of time, and you can't bring any notes or props or other material to the competition with you.  Everything has to be memorized or made on the spot. 

After it's all over, thank the organizers, but implore them to please please make the event environmentally friendly, because, dammit, if the environmentally interested find it too inconvenient to do, then we are truly doomed!  During the competition, all the people working were handed Tim's coffees in single-use cups.  Nary a travel mug in sight.  And lunch was pizza on paper plates with bleached napkins.  It's really easy to make a huge event no impact; check out the annual Hillside music festival to see it in action, but here's some basics:

1.  Tell everyone who's coming to bring their own plates, napkins (cloth preferably, an arm-sleeve will do in a pinch), and cups.  If you make it clear on every correspondence that no cups or plate will be provided people will bring their own or make do.  Then follow through and actually save money by never using disposable products again! 

2.  If you're going on a Tim's run, have everyone put a bit of tape with their name and order on their mug.  They can add this nicely to an area not often handled, and it can be permanent on their mug for the next time someone offers to buy them coffee.  Take the mugs in, and just hand them off to be filled accordingly.  No tracking of orders or remembering or writing it all down is necessary!  And you did something nice for the world.

See how easy it is?!!

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