Excited, but unsure of what to expect, I boarded a plane on July 22 and traveled to New Brunswick, Canada, to represent Oregon at the NCF-Envirothon — North America’s largest high-school environmental education competition. I would later find out that it’s nearly impossible to know what to expect at this event, which hosts about 300 high-school students and their teachers and chaperones for a week-long competition totally focused on natural resources.
After almost 24 hours of travel due to delays and missed connections, I arrived at Mount Allison University, the site of the competition. I was tired, but still excited to observe and participate in the event.
Forty-nine teams from across the U.S., Canada, China and Singapore had traveled to this year’s competition, held July 23-28. Each of the participating teams, which are composed of five high-school students, won the Envirothon competition in their region, qualifying them to advance to the international competition. This event would test their knowledge of soil and land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, and wildlife management through written tests and interactive stations. This year, these topics featured New Brunswick’s natural resources. The teams also took tests and prepared oral presentations on this year’s current issue: “Adapting to a Changing Climate.”
The Oregon team from Logos Public Charter School in Medford won the 2023 Oregon Envirothon in May. OFRI organizes and sponsors the statewide qualifying competition, which is held at The Oregon Garden in Silverton each spring.
To prepare for the NCF-Envirothon, the Logos students — who called their team “Rogue Pack Alpha” — arrived in New Brunswick the week before the competition to train and become familiar with the region’s natural resources. Their teacher, Christopher Van Ness, had scheduled time for them to work in the field with representatives from the Canadian Forest Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service.
The first day of the competition was an extensive team training day. All students went through a trial run of the test stations. The next day was the real thing. As team members boarded the buses to the testing site, they were not allowed any electronic devices. Wednesday, the teams took a day off and enjoyed a field trip to the Bay of Fundy.
Thursday was prep day for the oral presentation, and teams were sequestered separately and given the current-issue topic. They had six hours to prepare a 20-minute oral and visual presentation on the issues surrounding saltwater marshes in the Tantramar region, which is between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. To give you a sense of how serious this competition is, students were provided with pencils and only allowed to bring a water bottle. All bags were searched before students went into sequestration to ensure no team had an unfair advantage.
On Friday morning, the last day of the competition, the teams gave their presentations in front of five highly educated and experienced judges. I watched from the audience when the Oregon team presented, and they did a great job. It was hard to believe they only had six hours to prepare for a presentation on such a very complicated topic.
The week ended with an award ceremony, and the Oregon team placed 13th overall.
Envirothon’s vision is to create future conservation leaders. Watching and listening to students at the competition showed me the level of commitment, talent and knowledge they possess. It’s easy to imagine these students in leadership roles! I’m proud that OFRI supports and sponsors the Oregon Envirothon program to raise up the next generation of natural resource professionals.
Director of K-12 Programs