All in for Envirothon!

Every spring, hundreds of students across Ohio commiserate over yet another scantron form, for yet another timed test. Well, five tests, to be exact.  However, this testing is a little different, since students get to work with four teammates to go through the questions, and it’s frequently held outdoors at a park or camp or college campus.  What could be nicer than spending a spring day outside of the classroom, even if it is to take a test?

Welcome to the Ohio Envirothon!  The Envirothon is a statewide competition offered to high-schoolers as a chance to escape the classroom—I mean, put their knowledge of the great outdoors to the test.  In one day, each team goes through a course of five stations, where they are tested on their knowledge of Forestry, Soils, Aquatics, Wildlife, and Current Environmental Issues.  Unlike the others, this station’s topic changes from year to year, to address the annual theme of the competition.  Former themes have included Urban Forestry and Invasive Species; this year the theme will be Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Stewardship.  

Because this event is organized by county soil and water conservation districts, the first level of testing occurs in each of the five Ohio SWCD “areas”.  Holmes County is in Area 3, which comprises 16 counties: From Knox, the counties east to Jefferson, south to Washington, then back up to Licking.  This year, our area competition will be held on April 26, near Bloomingdale, at the Jefferson Sportsman’s Club. Teams of five will come from nearly every county (more on that below!) in the area for the first round of tests.  The top 4 teams from the area competition compete again at the state level.  The Ohio 1st place team will represent their home state at the North American Envirothon Competition, where they are up against all other participating states, as well as teams from Canadian provinces.  The 2016 host for the “National” competition was Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, and it also included a team from China!  

You may be wondering why I’ve chosen this topic, when there are more seasonal things I could post.  Reason One: I just joined the Ohio Envirothon Committee, to help participate in the planning and execution of the state-wide contest.  It will be a while before Holmes County has to host either an area or the state competition, but that leads me to Reason Two: Holmes County doesn’t have a team to enter the contest!  Having helped out at several Envirothon contests, at the area and state level, I really enjoyed seeing students working as a team to complete these questions, on subjects they rarely get asked about in traditional school curriculum.  Therefore, even though we don’t have our own students in the running, Holmes County can still demonstrate our support of this unique event by being “hands on” in the organizing.  

However, this doesn’t mean that Holmes County couldn’t get a team together!  Many schools get their teams from FFA clubs.  Because of the time of year it occurs, Holmes FFA students have timing conflicts.  But if you know of a high school age student (or five!) who might be a good fit for this kind of challenge, encourage them to contact our office, and let’s see what we can get together!  These could be home-schooled students, or students from either of our school districts or private schools, who have an interest in, or knowledge of, various elements of natural resources and science.  

Holmes SWCD can help support the team with advisory assistance and practice tests.  We have soil survey books to share with the students, and can help teach them to decipher soil maps, texture matrices, etc.  We also have resources to assist with tree identification and other relevant Forestry information, and the same goes for the aquatics.  And for this year’s theme of Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Stewardship, we would be able to offer a lot of education about soil health, soil quality, and best management practices.

There is one more way that we can be supportive of the Envirothon:  Every February, during the annual meeting of Ohio Soil and Water Districts, a silent auction is held to raise funds specifically for the Envirothon.  Each SWCD brings items that represent their home county, and bids are accepted throughout the two-day event.  This auction helps raise a few thousand dollars that are put towards the costs of the state-wide competition: For site rental and preparation, event supplies and equipment, and awards for the winners.  Holmes SWCD would be very grateful for financial donations to the Envirothon, or for items to be sold at the silent auction.  If you have something you’d like to contribute, please let us know, and we’ll make sure it goes towards supporting the next generation of conservation-minded citizens.

For more information, try the links below, or contact our office!

Karen Gotter.JPG
Karen is the most recent addition to the Holmes SWCD staff.  Since joining the staff in January 2016, she has delved into the cover crop program, soil testing, nutrient recommendations, nutrient trading programs, and water sampling.  A 2009 graduate of Miami University’s Western College program with a Bachelor of Philosophy in environmental studies, she has worked in a variety of fields in southern Ohio, California, and Colorado.  She was most recently employed with the Farm Service Agency in Hamilton, Ohio, but is happy to return home and assist the Holmes community in agricultural and conservation pursuits.  Karen can be reached at 330-674-2811 or