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Students Compete in Louisiana's Only Envirothon

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Three high school teams broke the summer doldrums today as each tackled questions about wildlife, forestry and ecology during Louisiana’s first environmental contest.

Envirothon, which pits high school teams against one another in preparation for a national competition was held at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Cade Farm on June 8 and 9. The contest, sponsored by the Governor’s Environmental Education Commission, is the state’s only competition for the national Canon Envirothon.

The three teams competing at Cade Farm were Acadiana High School, Lafayette Parish 4-H and Opelousas Catholic High School. Each team included five members, one alternate and two advisors. The team from Lafayette Parish 4-H including Cooper Battle, Rebecca Jurek, Daniel Jurek, Josh VanderMolen and Kendall Lemelle will move on to compete in the national Envirothon.

“ Any time we get children involved in the environment it’s wonderful,” said Mary Wilson with the state commission. “We have to nurture our environment and children have to have knowledge of it to respect it.”

At both the state and national levels, teams are evaluated on their performances at five training and testing stations which cover soils/land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife and current environmental issues.

“ There’s so much here for the kids to learn,” said Marie Trahan, advisor for the Opelousas team. “They are actually having to deal with these environmental issues and not just read about them in a textbook.”

Another advisor agreed. “There’s so many things that I can incorporate in the classroom after participating in this contest,” said Denise Ortego, advisor for Acadiana High. “It’s a wonderful educational opportunity for the students.”

Leaders in the College of Applied Life Sciences at UL Lafayette learned about the national contest while attending a recent conference. The basis of the national contest is the same as the college’s Agricultural Challenge in which teams of school students train and test at various environmental stations at Cade Farm. The winners of these challenges receive UL Lafayette scholarships.

“ The College of Applied Life Sciences found out about this program while we were attending a conference for science teachers. We knew we had the perfect location to host this type of contest,” said Linda Vincent, dean of Applied Life Sciences. “We’ll be in attendance at the national competition in July to see how we can improve for next year’s contest. We want to be even better prepared than we are this year and we want to help students in Louisiana be their best in the national competition.”

The teams had a day of training on June 8 during an agricultural challenge at Cade Farm. The next day teams conducted tests at different stations for the competition. The state Wildlife and Fisheries Office, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Forestry Department compiled the tests for each station.

In addition to the testing stations, each team made oral presentations on specific environmental issues currently facing society.

The winning team will go on an expense-paid trip to West Virginia for the national contest on July 26 to August 1. Each member of the first place team in the national competition receives a $3,000 scholarship plus a variety of Canon products. The second place team will receive $2,000 scholarships and the third place team receives $1,000 scholarships.