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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Envirothon students go beyond workshop

What’s striking about the Chardon Envirothon students mentioned in today’s story is their enthusiasm.

Kim Savides, a junior and second-year Envirothon member, arrived with binoculars 45 minutes ahead of the workshop’s scheduled start in order to spend time birding.

Her peers, junior Anna Parker and team captain Kate Best, a senior, gathered under the pavilion for a moment before asking coach Marilyn Rohr if they could go check out trees while waiting for the rest of the team to arrive for the workshop.

The four bounded off toward the tree line, calling out tree and bird names as they went. Occasionally, they’d stop to inspect a tree or shrub at close quarters, checking for the flexibility of spruce needles or looking for distinguishing features on a small hemlock. They’d stop in their tracks to listen to what one girl called “the tweet, tweet, tweet in the woods” or to whip out their binoculars to stare toward a distant tree.

“Is that a green ash?” one teen would ask, followed closely by another’s query, “Is that a blue spruce?”

“Oh! Dragonfly! Giant blue one, yay!” another said as the creature in question buzzed quickly by.

Along the way, Rohr would quiz them about invasive species or give them mnemonic tricks for remembering names such as sycamore. (“See how the bark’s all peeling off and looks sick?” she said, using the word “sick” as a reminder for sycamore.)

Each team member’s strengths play well into Envirothon, giving the team a first-place win at this year’s Area 2 Envirothon and sending them on to state competition in June. In two of the past four years, the team earned a trip to nationals. Teams compete in five areas: forestry, wildlife, aquatics, soils and current environmental issues.

Rohr says she recruits students based on their “interest in the environment, demonstrated abilities in science, presentation skills, teamwork ethos and willingness to learn.” Kate is “extremely knowledgeable” in all Envirothon topics because her father is a park naturalist, according to information Rohr provided. Kim focuses on birds, reptiles and aquatics and recently took first place in ornithology at the Ohio Science Olympiad. The boys on the team, seniors Brian Vadakin and Matt Perkins, focus on mathematics and chemistry while Parker, a new member, is showing an “intense interest” in the environment.

In competitions, students face a wide range of challenges, from a bucket filled with macroinvertebrates they’ve been asked to identify, to measuring a tree, then computing the amount of board feet in that tree and how much it would sell for, Rohr said.

- Rachel Jackson |


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