UXBRIDGE, Mass., May 25, 2023
For the past school year, high school students across the Commonwealth have been studying climate change in their community, assessing climate change vulnerabilities and assets, researching nature-based solutions, interviewing people who make decisions, and thinking about how to include those who have not yet joined the conversation. They presented their findings at the 36th annual Massachusetts Envirothon competition on Thursday, May 25th at the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park in Uxbridge, Mass.
“The students participating in this year’s Envirothon are the Commonwealth’s next generation of environmental stewards who will be responsible for protecting and preserving our beautiful natural and cultural resources,” said DCR Commissioner Brian Arrigo. “The Envirothon provides a unique opportunity for young people to share ideas with their peers, engage with climate change experts, and inspire professionals currently working to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and we are proud to host it.”
The approximately 120 students from 18 Massachusetts communities also tested their knowledge of the area’s soils, forests, water, and wildlife as part of the competition. At this outdoor field event, teams rotated through four “ecostations” where they answered written questions and engaged in hands-on activities such as soil analysis, wildlife habitat assessment, tree identification, and water quality measures. Each qualifying team had 5 participants and schools had an option to bring a 2nd team.
At the fifth station, the Current Issue, each team gave a 15-minute presentation on “Climate Change in Your Community” to a panel of judges. Teams have been researching the Current Issue in their own community in preparation for their presentation. Each panel of judges included concerned citizens and environmental professionals from government agencies, non-profit organizations, academia and private industry. Teams were asked to craft a proposal for the highest priority action their community should take to address climate change and identify what specific next steps will be required to make it happen.
“These teams work hard getting to know their local ecosystems and how their communities depend on them. We test their scientific knowledge, but we also like to hear their stories about how they have gotten muddy, cold, and tired, and otherwise had fun and fallen in love with nature in their neighborhood. The best hope for the future comes from engaged, scientifically literate citizens who care about their communities and the environment,” said Kelley Freda of the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Water Supply Protection and former chair of the Massachusetts Envirothon Steering Committee.
“This year’s Massachusetts Envirothon brought students together from across the state to address our greatest threat: climate change,” said Ashley E. Randle, Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. “The teams presented innovative solutions to mitigate climate change impacts in their communities and demonstrated the critical voice and leadership of our youth. Congratulations to all the teams that competed in this year’s competition!”
Members of the overall winning team will have the opportunity to represent Massachusetts in the North American Envirothon, which will be held July 23-29 in Tantramar, New Brunswick, Canada.
The 2023 Massachusetts Envirothon is made possible through the contributions of partnering agencies and organizations, including financial support from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs, the U.S. Forest Service, the Massachusetts State Grange, Smithfield Foods, Soil Scientists of Southern New England, Green Newton, Wegman’s supermarkets, the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts, and local conservation districts. Fifteen federal and state environmental agencies, conservation districts, non-profit organizations, higher educational institutions, and businesses provide expertise and help organize the event. Dozens of volunteers handled the event logistics from setting up tents, tables and chairs, checking-in teams, serving food, scoring tests and cleaning up. For more information on the Massachusetts Envirothon visit http://www.massenvirothon.org.