by Jonathan Weaver
A handful of West Shamokin students will put their environmental skills to the test against the best in the state later this month.
The “WS Hydrofights” won Armstrong County’s annual Envirothon outdoor competition April 27 at the Crooked Creek Environmental Learning Center (at the edge of Manor Township).
Armstrong Conservation District ACT / NM Technician Jessica Schaub has coordinated the local competition for the past 10 years.
Before starting the local competition, Schaub – a former Envirothon competitor at Karns City High School – visited other county’s events.
“In the past, we always sent a team from Lenape Tech and the competed at Indiana County’s Envirothon, but whenever I started, we thought it would be a great idea to have one,” Schaub said. “We have a great partnership with the Environmental Learning Center.”
West Shamokin’s other five-person team “The Planarians” won second place in the competition, narrowly beating out the “Lenape Tech Warriors.”
The two teams were led by West Shamokin Biology Teacher Karen Risinger. She said most of the winning team was comprised of underclassmen.
“A few of (the participating students) went the year before, but actually, everyone on the team that won first place never went before,” Risinger said. “I was very proud of their efforts, very happy with how they worked together as a team and how they represented West Shamokin.”
Risinger has taken West Shamokin teams to the competition for the past six years, but a West Shamokin group has never won before April’s competition.
To prepare for the Envirothon, each student focused on one of the five activities before working as a group last week.
“We try to make each student be responsible for being a specialist in one of the areas,” Risinger said. “They signed up based on their areas they wanted to concentrate on – whether it was wildlife, forestry, aquatics, soil or the current issue. We reviewed a few things as a group, but mostly, the students were preparing independently.”
The first-place team will next compete in the state competition May 24-25 at Susquehanna University and Camp Mount Luther (Snyder County). An additional topic will be added to the competition later this month.
In addition to bragging rights, West Shamokin’s team will compete against teams from all 67 counties to win more than $10,000 in scholarships, prizes and awards.
EQT will pay up to $200 in expenses to help the local winners get to Susquehanna University.
The “Hydrofights” will also receive plaques from the Armstrong Conservation District during the school’s award ceremony.
Every year, about 15,000 Pennsylvania teenagers enrolled in high school grades 9–12 compete in county level competitions (a one day competition event) for the chance to go to the state Envirothon. This year marks the 33rd Pennsylvania Envirothon.