Wildlands Conservancy hosts Envirothon
Lehigh County Conservation District hosted its annual Envirothon this past school year at the Wildlands Conservancy’s Pool Wildlife Sanctuary, Emmaus. The Envirothon is a competitive environmental education program conducted across Pennsylvania which engages high school and middle school students in hands-on learning.
Five teams composed of 25 students from Northern Lehigh, Parkland, Southern Lehigh, and Whitehall high schools competed by rotating through different testing stations covering environmental issues that included aquatics, agricultural soil and water conservation stewardship, forestry, soil, and wildlife. Parkland High School had two teams represented.
Jolie Chylack, environmental education and outreach coordinator for the Lehigh County Conservation District, coordinated this year’s Envirothon.
“After the high school teams finished their test, they participated in a question-and-answer session, and hands on activities such as an animal program presented by the Wildlands Conservancy,” Chylack said. “The Parkland High School Tree Huggers had the best test scores at the end of the competition.”
The Tree Huggers compete against students from 66 other Pennsylvania counties in a statewide event at the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown on May 22 and 23.
“Plaques were awarded to the Parkland High School Dirt Worshippers for winning second place, and the Southern Lehigh Soil Bandits for making third place,” Chylack said. “Dorney Park of Allentown gave free tickets to all 25 of the students that competed.”
On May 11, 26 teams composed of 142 middle school students from Arts Academy Charter Middle School, Allentown, and Catasaqua, Lower Macungie, Orefield, Southern Lehigh, Springhouse and Whitehall-Coplay middle schools and Eyer and St. Ann’s Middle School, both in Emmaus, competed.
They also rotated through the stations covering the topics that the high school students were tested on, but it was structured differently.
“The goal for the middle school kids was to provide them a sense of what to expect if they were going to compete at the high school level,” Chylack said.
Working with their teammates, the middle school students were educated and tested on things like identifying different plants, learning how to use certain environmental sampling equipment, and sifting through soil samples to determine what was inside them.
“Each station had a volunteer guide experienced in the topic being discussed,” Chylack said. Chase Rhoades, Travis Miller, and Lee Creyer (retired), water conservation officers from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, presented at the aquatics station. Scott Bieber, a Lehigh Valley engineer, presented at the agricultural soil and water conservation stewardship station. Charles Kopcho of Pen Argyl, a retired science teacher, presented at the forestry station. Dr. David Bell, Owner of Bell Ecologic, LLC of Slatington, presented at the soils station. And Linda Mackey from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection presented at the wildlife station.
Certificates were awarded to each middle school team that competed, and each individual student received a shirt and a pen. Teachers and advisors attending Envirothon with their students were given seeds called Earth drops, to plant with their class back at school.
Lunch was provided both days of the competition by Smokin Smitty’s Catering, Emmaus.
Deer Park Water, the regional spring water brand of Nestlé Waters, sponsored the Envirothon. “It is so important to educate the next generation,” Kerrin Garripoli, spokeswoman and consultant for Deer Park said. “The Wildlands Conservancy is a great host. It is dedicated to environmental education, has a beautiful sanctuary, and provides great opportunities for hands-on experiences.”
“I would like to thank everyone who helped with Envirothon,” Chylack said. “It is quite a community endeavor. And for any high school students interested in learning more about Envirothon, there is a smart phone and tablet application available to download called “PA Envirothon.”