The “Envirothon” competition is a relatively new event in Ontario, and this year Fort Frances High School’s team were crowned the Northwestern Ontario champs.
The competition has only been held for five years and this year was the first time it was hosted by Fort Frances (it actually was held on private property off La Vallee Road South).
“It’s to provide outdoor knowledge to the students in an interactive manner,” said event organizer Dave Legg.
The Fort High team of Melanie Halvorsen, Aimee Pelletier, Devan Hahkala, Greg Halvorsen and Brendan Cumming beat six other squads by answering a series of questions with on-the-spot research or with the help of information they had been given to study at the beginning of the year.
“Each of the ‘Envirothon’ teams are given a binder of information for each topic. Each school registers with the Ontario Forestry Association heading up the ‘Envirothon,’” Legg explained.
The students have the year to study the information and learn how to do the experiments before the competition.
Fort High and runner-up Dryden High School now will face 20 teams at the provincial showdown May 11-14 in Thunder Bay, with a chance to qualify for the North American championships coming up in Nova Scotia.
Most of the stations in the event require the students to do hands-on experiments to answer questions. “We try to get at least half the questions to be hands-on type questions,” Legg noted.
The five topics covered at this year’s competition included:
•trees (where students determined their age and growth);
•aquatics (where students studied fish populations and how they are affected by oxygen and water temperatures);
•soil (dealing with the interaction of the soils and the vegetation growing there);
•wildlife (less interactive but required students to answer a number of questions about animals and their habitat); and
•a current event (the wetlands’ complexities and vegetation was this year’s topic).
“Our two top teams did very well, they were only separated by one point,” said Legg.
The “Envirothon” competition has been held in the U.S. since the early ’70s but only recently have started up in a few Canadian provinces.