Envirothon team succeeds in local competition


Photo courtesy Julie Baker

Seniors Mary Olsen, Elizabeth Butz, Edward Benner, Erica Deyesu, and Caleb Olsen pose with their awards from the Harford County Envirothon competition at Rocks State Park. The A Team won third place for the second consecutive year.

On Tuesday, April 11, the Envirothon A and B Teams competed against 10 high schools in the Harford County Envirothon competition at Rock State Park. The A Team, which consists of seniors Edward Benner, Elizabeth Butz, Erica Deyesu, Caleb Olsen, and Mary Olsen, placed third for their second consecutive year as a team.

Although the B Team, which consists of sophomores Emma Olsen and Bryan Stancliff, and senior Ally Whitehead, did not place in the top three, moderator Julie Baker believes they did “pretty well considering those three on that team had never done it before.”

The Envirothon competition tests and scores students’ knowledge in five different fields: Wildlife, Forestry, Aquatics, Soils, and one unique area that covers a current environmental issue. This year the fifth area was Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation. According to Butz, students had to “find a way to prevent runoff from farms going into the river and polluting everything.”

Although the A Team’s scores for each field improved from last year, they were unable to beat North Harford High School and Harford Christian School, who placed first and second respectively. “We thought we were really prepared because we knew all of the questions, and I actually memorized all the Latin names for the trees, which is what we get wrong every year,” Butz said.

During the competition, students must complete objective tests in addition to hands-on activities to test their knowledge about the environment. Both teams found the Soils and Forestry segments to be the most challenging areas of the competition.

Sophomore Emma Olsen, seniors Caleb Olsen and Edward Benner, sophomore Brian Stancliff (back row), and seniors Erica Deyesu, Mary Olsen, Ally Whitehead, and Elizabeth Butz (front row) pose for a picture during the Harford County Envirothon competition on Tuesday, April 11. The Envirothon team won the Tom Trafton Spirit Award for their dedication to the environment and their friendly attitudes.

“Forestry is always really hard because you have to identify the trees with no leaves on them, no acorns on them, and no flowers or anything on them, just bark. Soils is also hard because it’s subjective and you have to tell the difference between the soils,” Butz said.

Stancliff agrees with Baker and thought the team performed well overall. “I feel like we did the best that we could with the amount of people we had. [With] just me, Ally, and Emma on [the] B Team, I think we definitely should have sent more than one person to [do the] Soils [activity],” he said. According to Stancliff, during this hands-on activity, competitors must examine a soil pit to determine the soil’s characteristics such as its horizons, pH, and slopes.

Both teams were also awarded the Tom Trafton Spirit Award. This award is given to a team “for exhibiting a positive, friendly attitude, enthusiasm, cooperation, and dedication to the environment,” according to the certificate.

Baker feels that this award describes the team as a whole and was “extremely happy” that they were recognized with this honor. “[I was] not surprised, but tremendously happy that they won [the award] because to me, that’s what made them so much fun to work with,” she said.

Stancliff was also selected to be Harford County’s student representative on the Maryland Student Conservation Leadership Council. Although he had few details at the time, he was still happy to be given this opportunity. “Everyone else was freaking out. I was happy, but I didn’t know how to react since I don’t really know what I’m doing,” he said.

According to Baker, Stancliff will go to meetings with other people from the Maryland Department of Environment and will have the opportunity to do projects out in the field. “I think that this is the first time Harford County is even having a student representative for this Maryland Student Conservation Leadership Council, so it’s pretty neat that he was picked to do that,” she said.

Overall, Baker thought the teams did well and was “really proud” of the hard work each team put into the competition. “Compared to the first year we [competed], we didn’t practice very much … I think their dedication to coming to practice every week pretty much [made them successful]. The times we knew we had to get something done, like the presentations or right before this competition, we would meet more than once a week, and they were fine with that,” Baker said.

Although a majority of the team is graduating, Stancliff and Olsen are already recruiting new members for next year. “They tell me they’ve gotten three people in mind so far, I guess they’re still working on it, but we’ll see. They’re my best recruiters,” Baker said.

Caroline Cooney is the Editor in Chief of The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.