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Delaware Students Get Hands-On Experience at Annual Envirothon





Delaware Students Get Hands-On Experience at Annual Envirothon
by Michelle Jacobs, Community Relations Officer, DNREC

On Thursday, April 14, 90 students focused in on soils/land use, aquatic ecology, wildlife, forestry, the new topic of air quality, and the current environmental issue of salt and freshwater estuaries as they competed in the 16th Annual Delaware Envirothon.  The event was held at the Blackbird Creek Reserve in New Castle County.  Eighteen teams, each comprised of five high school students, were competing for college scholarships, monetary awards, and the chance to represent Delaware in the 2011 Canon Envirothon, July 24 -29 at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada.

Teams attended training sessions this past fall and winter, and worked hard throughout the school year to prepare for the competition which involved answering questions, reviewing maps/charts, inspecting specimens, and taking measurements in the assigned subjects.   Additionally, the teams had to develop an environmental assessment addressing land use changes of a proposed housing development in the Delaware Inland Bays area, and then gave a timed oral presentation discussing their assessment to a panel of four judges. 

After more than three hours of testing the Charter School of Wilmington Team A was crowned the 2011 state champion.  The Charter School of Wilmington Team B took second place, followed by Polytech High School Team A and Polytech High School FFA in third and fourth places, respectively. 

The Delaware Envirothon is sponsored by the Delaware Association of Conservation Districts and run entirely on donations and the talents of volunteers from local environmental agencies and groups.  USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employees play a key role each year by staffing the testing sites, and training the students and advisors for the soils portion of the event.  Instruction is provided on soils related topics such as obtaining a soil sample, texturing a soil sample, using the Munsell Soil Color Chart,  determining slope using the clinometers, and using/interpreting the soil survey.  To enhance the training session, NRCS staff dig a soil pit or two with different soil types so students and advisors can get “down and dirty” as they discuss color, drainage class, soil structure, the depth of the horizons, agricultural suitability, the effects of the water table, and more.   

Top photo caption How thick is the topsoil layer?  Knowing how to use various tools of the trade is important for Envirothon participants.

Bottom photo caption - When it is not feasible to dig a soil pit, a soil profile is provided so students can determine properties such as the thickness of a layer, the color, texture, rooting depth, permeability, etc.   

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