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Schools compete in Envirothon

Natural resource professionals give a presentation during the Envirothon. Photo courtesy Kim Samuelson1 / 2
Cromwell High School teacher Lori Wester, far right, does final Envirothon prep work with her class. Photo courtesy Kim Samuelson2 / 2

On Monday, May 7, within 30 minutes, the students attending the Area III Envirothon went from pleasantly warm in their sweatshirts at 65 degrees to tearing them off and heading for shade from the 80-plus-degree heat. After last year's winter storm chased all of the students inside, this year's competition was literally heating up.

Grouped in 38 teams, 190 students in grades 9-12 represented 10 schools from northeastern Minnesota at the 2018 annual Area III Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Envirothon.

Held at the University of Minnesota Forestry Center in Cloquet, the teams spent about three hours rotating through five stations, each dealing with a specific topic: wetlands and aquatics, forestry, wildlife, soils and current issues.

At each station, a short presentation on that topic was given by natural resource professionals and then the teams worked together to complete the "test" for points toward their total. In addition to the stations, each team gave a demonstration using research and visual aids to give their recommendations on this year's "Envirothon Scenario" — a situation asking for ways to help the hypothetical Envirothon Land and Cattle Company of Minnesota improve their pasture and grazing land management and production.

The winners of the Area III Envirothon, who advanced to the state competition May 21 in Slayton, are Cook County Team 26, first place; Two Harbors High School Team 27, second place and winner of "Team Spirit" award; Cook County Team 25, third place; Barnum Team 2, fourth place; and Cromwell Team 4, fifth place. The Cromwell team will go to state because the Barnum team can't attend.

Here are some comments from students about this year's Envirothon:

• "Incredible stations and instructors! Liked the hands on work. Well run!" —Marcus P., Wrenshall

• "It wasn't as stressful as I thought it would be." —Chloe G., Moose Lake

• "Enjoyed being down on the dock overlooking the water." —Kaitlyn N., Barnum

The professionals chimed in with their comments:

• "I was impressed with how much the students have to study to be prepared. They have to look for resources and take it seriously. I wish we had the Envirothon when I was a kid!" —Melissa Koelsch, DNR Wildlife

• "I was surprised at some of the answers. Most don't have much exposure to grazing land management, but even so, most can answer the questions. Most were enthusiastic." —Ryan Clark, Carlton SWCD