Envirothon makes its way to Horizons Unlimited

Published 12:02 am Thursday, March 24, 2022

SALISBURY — The halls of Horizons Unlimited were filled this week with students from throughout the region for a competition that could take them to the national level.

Andy Miller’s air horn punctuated the end of each session as students moved from classroom to classroom for this year’s Southern Piedmont Envirothon.

Miller is the director of water conservation in Davidson County and he is chair of the committee for this competition.

Miller said the contest has been held for more than 20 years and for the last few years it has been hosted in Salisbury, either at Catawba College or Horizons.

In 2020 the event was canceled and it was online in 2021, so it the competition has not met in person for two years.

Miller said Horizons offers good outdoor space for the program and enough interior space for indoor sessions. Wednesday was one of those rainy days that forced the program to move inside.

“Plus when we’re indoors there’s a lot of stuff here tied very closely to what the Envirothon is aimed at, to add to the experience of the students while they’re here,” Miller said.

The annual competition is part workshop and part test. The Envirothon was split into two days. Tuesday was for middle school teams and Wednesday was for high schoolers. Their mornings began by rotating through five sessions on subjects ranging from soil to aquatics.

Each session was taught by a professional in the field and after lunch the students took a test 0n environmental issues they have been studying as part of their teams.

The top 7 teams will move on to the state level, and the top team at the state level will move on to the National Conservation Foundation Envirothon, which also fields teams from Canada and China.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools fielded five teams. Two from Corriher-Lipe Middle, one from West Rowan Middle, one from West Rowan High and one outdoor environmental club team made up of students from different schools.

Spencer Mayor Jonathan Williams was giving a talk on aquatics. He walked students through the basics of aquatic ecosystems and some of their challenges like blooms of toxic cyanobacteria in waterways.

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologist Rupert Medford spoke to students about different classes and species of mammals. He pointed to easy ways to distinguish between rodents, canids and felines by the features of their skulls.

Rodents have large incisors in the front of their mouths and cats have large, puncturing incisors to the side of their mouths as well as large orbital areas around their eyes. Medford pointed out cats mostly hunt in low-light and night-time conditions.

West Rowan High School senior Alex Bauk said she started out with an interest in the communication side of agricultural issues and her advisor approached her to get involved in the competition.

West sophomore Andrew Mead got involved the same way. He had an interest in forestry and aquatics and thought “why not.”

Both students said they enjoy the program. Bauk said she did not grow up in an area where she was surrounded by animals, but reading material to prepare for the program has taught her about all the possibilities.

“I’m no farmer, but this has been really interesting,” Mead said.

Bauk said the aquatic session was enlightening to her while Mead pointed to the talk on soil. He knew there were different soil types, but he learned about the concept of soil series and small facts he did not know.

Bauk and Mead said they do not think they could be more ready for the test.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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