Ontario Envirothon – an outdoor ecological competition for high school students – is one of the Ontario Forestry Association’s signature programs. Since its inception in 1994, the Envirothon has grown from 10 schools province-wide to over 200, with 10,000 students involved annually.
An Envirothon competition involves teams of students going head-to-head in five subject areas: soils, wildlife, forestry, aquatics, and a special topic that changes from year-to-year. Teams are evaluated in each area through a combination of applied field testing and analytical problem solving. Cumulative scores from field testing, combined with an oral presentation component, determine the final team ranking.
With support from local partners, teams compete in regional competitions, with the winner of each proceeding to the provincial event. The top provincial team travels to the North American Envirothon to compete against other provinces and states. This year’s provincial champion, West Hill Secondary School from Owen Sound, placed second out of 54 teams at the North American finals in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. This was their second year in a row to achieve this honour!
Envirothon gets students outdoors to experience nature first hand and hands on, rewarding them for learning about the natural world. Interactive field trips and workshops help to prepare the students for competition, and teach them about human impacts on the natural world. Seventy-four percent of participants say that Envirothon led them to consider a career in science, and 100% say they would recommend Envirothon to others.
All support materials are curriculum-linked to make it easy for teachers to integrate environmental education into their lesson planning. The competitions are moderated by professionals in related fields, giving students a glimpse of career opportunities in the environmental sector. Finally, the events are fun and engaging.
Recent MNR announcements about changes to stewardship delivery present a new challenge for the Envirothon program. Many regional events are run by Stewardship Councils, and may be threatened by changes to the program. These councils have been valuable partners throughout the years, and a critical component of the success of Ontario Envirothon. We thank all our regional partners for their support. We are currently evaluating our options and scoping new structures and opportunities for Ontario Envirothon.
Article submitted by Mike Halferty, Forestry Programs Manager, Ontario Forestry Association.