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The rain held off long enough for the 2009 Envirothon to go off without a hitch Thursday at the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center in Abingdon.

And, for the third year in a row, the team from Harford Christian School walked away the winner.

Mark Herzog, assistant supervisor of science for the Harford County school system and Harford Glen, described the Envirothon, sponsored by the Harford Soil Conservation District, as an environmental Olympics that featured teams from all over the county.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Herzog said. “This competition is truly excellent teaching and learning at its best. It’s the longest, single extracurricular activity that students can join.”

Harford County’s Envirothon winner has made it to the state level, and won a total of seven times, according to Patrick Jones, Envirothon coordinator.

Harford Christian won at the state level last year, and went on to nationals to place 20th out of 54 teams overall and fifth in the soil portion of the competition.

Each school that participated in Thursday’s event had at least one team of up to five students of various grade levels that traveled through five stations throughout the day. The schools could have submitted two teams, a team A and a team B, however, only team A can compete to be the winner of the Envirothon.

The students’ knowledge was tested in five categories, including soils, aquatics, wildlife, forestry and a fifth topic that changes each year. This year’s was biodiversity in a changing world.

The teams spent the day competing with other teams by applying their knowledge through a combination of hands-on experience and written tests.

At the soil station, students stood in a large pit where they tested soils and collected samples to study before completing a written portion of the test.

Havre de Grace’s team, Scarcity, which was the school’s team B, was not afraid to get a little dirty at the soil station as they had their hands in the soil trying to identify the type.

Sophomore Erin Worthington said the soil station was one of her favorites at the Envirothon, along with the wildlife station.

“I learned a lot about the identity of trees and birds,” she said.

Worthington said participating in the Envirothon looks good on her resume, but that’s not the only reason she participates.

“It makes us more aware of the environment and our surroundings,” she said.

At another station, the various teams hiked through the woods to measure and inspect trees at a forestry testing site. By determining the height and width of a tree, the students could calculate the “merchantable height of a tree,” or how many logs a tree could produce if it were cut down.

With time running out, C. Milton Wright’s team, Fauna, which was the school’s team B, was working through a strategy at the Forestry station of how to go about answering the remaining questions.

The team decided to skim for questions they knew the answers to and also split some of the questions up to save time.

“I love the environment,” junior Kelly Nellenbach said.

As part of a team of all juniors and one sophomore, junior Haleigh Schilling said the best part about the Envirothon was being able to be outside and work together as a team.

At the aquatic station, students learned about different bug and fish life that exist within streams, as well as submerged aquatic plants.

Thirteen years after competing as a student in the competition, Jennifer Walker, an environmental and earth science teacher at Patterson Mill Middle and High School, returned to the Envirothon to lead Patterson Mill High’s first Envirothon team.

“It’s neat having done it in high school and have my students go through the same experience,” Walker said.

Harford Christian will move on to the state competition in August in North Carolina. If Harford Christian fares well at the state competition, they will move on to nationals.

Havre de Grace High School’s Team A came in second place, and Fallston High School’s Team A came in third place.


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