Students Test Environmental Knowledge

They measured pine trees, sampled soil and identified animal skulls.

High school students from throughout South Mississippi competed Tuesday in the "Envirothon". The team-based program is all about environmental education.

It's a combination of hands on learning and on-the-spot test taking. Five member teams visit different learning stations, where they're given brief instructions and a written exam. Teams from eight high schools participated, with the top five advancing to the statewide competition.

"Yeah, that one looks just like it," yelled a Harrison Central student at his temmates.

Students studied soil samples in the woods of Camp Tiak. This environmental science competition tests the collective knowledge of five member teams.

"The toughest thing about this is trying to figure out what you have to know, what they're going to ask you, and what you have to study for," said Forrest County AHS student, Adam Courtney.

Envirothon competitors began preparing last September for today's round of testing and remembering.

"I knew this. I took Boy Scouts. I should know this," said Moss Point High's Frankie Polk.

Identifying leaves and types of trees is part of the forestry work station. Hands on experiments offer clues and information. But the moment of truth comes in filling out questions on a clipboard.

"You have to work together to try and figure out what the question is. Because many times you don't know. Because they come up with some really tough questions," said Harrison Central student, Shelley Wade.

Maria Torres says that's why teamwork is essential.

"Teamwork is very important. Because some of this stuff I didn't know. And my other teammates were there to help me. And some of the stuff I knew that they didn't know."

The soils section offered some of the toughest questioning. Students played detective to identify soil types and properties.

Ralph Thornton is a soil scientist who helped test the teens.

"How to rate soils as far as permeability or its drainage, its color. How to read colors of the soil. What layers are within the soil. Whether its surface layer or sub soil."

Competitors didn't need to know everything about the environment. Only enough to help the team.

"It's really important. Because if we didn't have our team, if we didn't work together, we'd fail," said Stone County High student, Sonya Mann.