These teenagers have the guts and gusto of the finest warriors. Their most potent weapons are their powerful intellects and their enormous passion for environmental science.
Huntington High School’s Envirothon team is tops. Captained by senior Rachel Roday, the squad includes juniors Rachel Moss and Aidan McCooey and sophomores Christiana DeLuca and Mat Hearl.
On a rainy spring day, the team along with high school science teacher Matthew Liguori headed to Old Bethpage Restoration Village for this year’s Long Island Envirothon competition. There were five challenging tests led by a team expert in each of the topics of forestry, soils, wildlife, aquatics and this year’s “current” issue, which focused on the best management practices for agriculture and sustainability.
Mr. McCooey handled the forestry category while Ms. Moss was tasked with soils and Mr. Hearl took on the responsibility for wildlife. Ms. Roday handled aquatics while Ms. DeLuca was assigned the “current” issue.
Huntington's Envirothon team members love science.
The competition is open to Nassau and Suffolk high schools. “On the day of the program, the students rotate between the subject stations and answer questions as a team,” states the organization’s website. “Each subject area test is made up of 25 multiple-choice questions. Many of the questions are hands-on, involving the use of equipment, maps, and/or audio-visual devices.”
Tension mounted during the competition. “Even though each person is considered an expert, the entire team takes the test as a group activity and works together to find the correct answer,” Ms. Roday explained.
The competition includes an oral presentation where each team is required to design a solution to a problem based on a prompt given to them two months earlier and make a presentation to a panel. This year’s problem involved a conservation stewardship plan for a farm.
“Our team outlined best management practices the farm should take to solve their erosion and runoff problem,” Ms. Roday said. “We also created solutions that were economically beneficial for the farm rather than just focusing on sustainability and agricultural health. It was a pretty challenging prompt.”
Prior “current” issues have focused on agricultural preservation, invasive species, non-point source pollution, wildlife management, wetlands, biodiversity, alternative and renewable energy.
“A station master manages each of the subject areas,” according to the LI regional Envirothon’s website. “These dedicated professionals oversee all aspects in their area of expertise. They approve the learning objectives, reference lists, and study guides that are recommended by the New York State Envirothon Committee. In addition, they are responsible for supervising their station during the event.”
The Huntington team members were energized by the competitive experience and they enjoyed every minute of it. They simply love science.
“As always, this event was the highlight of my entire year,” Ms. Roday said. “Although we didn’t win, we had a lot of fun and learned a significant amount about agriculture and sustainability. The hosts this year made it very clear that it is more important now than ever that my generation understands the threats to our environment. It is definitely one of the more passionate science events that I’ve attended. Since I will be studying marine science in college, I actually enjoyed taking these tests, specifically the aquatic one. My projects in the science research program studying hypoxia and eutrophication have definitely helped my understanding of the environmental impact in our water system. As a senior, I will definitely miss this competition in the future. I’m so proud of the work we accomplished as a team and the end result of our hard work. I wish my team the best of luck next year.”
The competition played out at the 209 acre Old Bethpage Village. The site includes 36 historic buildings that have been moved there from various points around Long Island and restored to resemble a mid-1800s community.
“Over the past three years, Envirothon has become one of my favorite activities organized through the high school,” Ms. Moss said. “While the oral presentation was certainly more difficult than prior years, I definitely enjoyed tackling the challenge. I think we have grown tremendously as a team, working extremely well together and improving on our subject specific tests. I am already looking forward to next year’s competition.”
With four of the Huntington team members returning next year, the squad is excited about what lies ahead. “Envirothon is an amazing event where kids from all of Long Island can unite through a passion for environmental science,” Ms. DeLuca said.
Huntington’s five Envirothon team members are all participants in the high school’s science research program led by teacher Lori Kenny.
“The Envirothon competition continues to teach me more about our environment and ways that we can learn to help it, while also allowing me to work with amazing people and be a part of a group that couldn’t be replaced by any other,” Mr. Hearl said.
With the 2017 contest now in the history books, attention is already turning to 2018 and Huntington’s next go at it. “Envirothon was a great learning experience for me,” Mr. McCooey said. “I can’t wait for next year.”