On April 26, two teams of students represented Big Walnut High School at the Area 5 Envirothon at Shawnee State Forest in Scioto County.
Envirothon is a competition designed to stimulate interest in the environment and natural resources among high school students by testing students’ knowledge of soils, forestry, wildlife, aquatic ecology and current environmental issues.
Envirothon also encourages cooperative decision-making and team building. While each student on an Envirothon team is challenged to contribute his or her personal best, the score that counts at the end of an Envirothon event is the team score.
Big Walnut High School science teacher Matt Wallschlaeger and former ag science teacher Bill Cackler served as team coaches, using practice materials provided by the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District.
“There were 59 teams at Shawnee State Forest representing 35 schools,” Wallschlaeger said. “If you get in the top 10, you’re doing pretty good. The top four teams from each area go to state Envirothon.”
Big Walnut’s Division of Dirt Apes Team, composed of junior Jonathan Schnipke and seniors Alison Hager, Marie Pendley, Kali Crossland and Ava Heller, placed fourth and will represent Big Walnut during the June 13-14 state Envirothon at Bowling Green State University.
“The Apes Team is amazing,” Wallschlaeger said. “They are extremely intelligent individuals, very adaptable and, as a team, they have a very cohesive chemistry.”
Big Walnut’s Ag Team, composed of senior Alex Brown and sophomores Gabby Adair, Lex Marvin and Troy Herrel, placed 18th out of the 59-team field. (All Ag Team members are also members of BW/DACC FFA.)
Wallschlaeger said that with only one graduating senior, the young Ag Team has a lot of potential in future Envirothon competitions.
Wallschlaeger also said members of Envirothon teams put in a significant number of hours preparing for competition. They met twice each week for up to two hours each practice session, studying topics like soils and animal and plant species.
“These students attended all after-school practice sessions,” Wallschlaeger said. “That’s critical, because you have to be good at facts, but you also have to be cohesive when working as a team – and that cohesiveness comes from practicing together.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093