Teaching conservation values "one child at a time" is a goal of the Area III Envirothon, a natural resources education competition, which was held at the Cloquet Forestry Center on May 6.
This local Envirothon, sponsored by the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and other local county SWCDs, was the 25th annual Envirothon. This event brought teams of high school students from Cook, Lake, St. Louis and Carlton counties together for a morning of presentations, hands-on experiences and tests at five stations: Forestry, Soils, Wildlife, Aquatics and Current Events.
There are three teams that are going to the state competition to show their increased knowledge of our wonderful natural resources: Team 17 from Cook County High School (first place), Team 14 from Two Harbors (second place) and Team 1 from Cromwell-Wright (third place). Team 14 also won the Team Spirit award.
As I wandered and checked out the various stations, I watched students measure to discover the diameter of trees and drip lines. I observed as they scrutinized soil to determine composition and texture. And I smiled as I saw them trying to figure out how to use a hygrometer (to measure moisture in the soil) and a secchi disk and tube (to measure clarity in river water).
I even had the great pleasure to spy a future Envirothon participant examining animal skulls with her father, Russell Kurhajetz, District 2 supervisor for Carlton SWCD.
Kurhajetz, who valued his Envirothon participation when he was a student years ago, spent the morning as this year's "runner," collecting score sheets from the stations after each session. He brought his 10-year-old daughter, Kennedy, to volunteer with him and to gain some "pre- experience" and learning along the way.
Kurhajetz strongly believes that "in order to have these natural resources, it is imperative that we understand what it takes to maintain them."
Ryan Clark, ag water quality certification specialist with Carlton SWCD, manned the current events station.
"As you can imagine, this year's topic is complex and and impacts everyone whether they know it or not," he said. "I was very impressed in the student's enthusiasm for learning about ways farmers produce an environmentally friendly crop for our growing population. Growing up with technology will help this next generation advance conservation and efficiency in agriculture and it showed with their understanding of these new practices."
Each team also gave an oral presentation based on the annual Minnesota State Envirothon Scenario. This year, with the State Envirothon set for May 20 at the Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River, teams gave presentations on the best irrigation system for cropland at the Oliver Kelley Farm, based on a synopsis of the farm.
Several teachers, including Lori Wester, a science teacher from Cromwell-Wright, have been bringing students for many years. They appreciate that the Envirothon "provides an opportunity for hands on learning. A picture in a book may be worth a thousand words, but an outdoor experience is worth a million."
Kim Samuelson is Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District’s elected supervisor for District 4.