Students tested on the environment

The environment was all around them Thursday as teams from high schools in four Capital Region count

The environment was all around them Thursday as teams from high schools in four Capital Region counties tested their knowledge of nature and the natural sciences.

“I love the environment,” said Abby Heitzman, 15, of Schodack’s Maple Hill High School. “What I want to do when I grow up is something to do with the environment.”

That’s just the sort of result the annual regional envirothons are intended to produce, said Dave Mosher of the Schenectady County Soil and Water Conservation District, an event co-sponsor.

“We’re trying to get kids of all ages interested in the environment,” Mosher said.

Rotating through a series of stations set up on the grounds of the New York Power Authority’s Blenheim-Gilboa Power Project, science students and budding environmentalists were scored on their answers to 25 questions in each of five subject areas.

They were tested on their knowledge of wildlife, soils, forestry, aquatics and recreational impacts on the environment, according to Brenda Weaver, a coordinator with the Schoharie County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Teams also were able to gain bonus points from a previously recorded 10-minute video that presented their response to a scenario of how they would plan the best multi-use management of a fictional 1,413-acre forest park, Weaver said.

Soil and water districts in Schoharie, Schenectady, Albany and Rensselaer counties were principal sponsors of the annual regional envirothon.

Top-scoring teams from each county may now compete in the statewide envirothon scheduled for May 21 and 22 at the State University of New York at Cobleskill.

One of two teams from Maple Hill High School scored the highest overall in Thursday’s regional. Scoring 348 points out of a possible 510, the team won the right to represent Rensselaer County in the state competition.

Next was Schenectady County winner, Duanesburg High School, with 342, followed by Schoharie County winner Sharon Springs High School (313), and Watervliet High School (247) for Albany County.

Except for Albany County’s single Watervliet team, several teams, including some from the same high schools, competed for their county honors.

The largest contingent in the event came from Schoharie County, with eight teams represents high schools in Cobleskill-Richmondville, Schoharie, Sharon Springs and Middleburgh.

By teaming up to voluntarily focus on environmental topics, “they learn a lot of information that they wouldn’t have known otherwise,” said Middleburgh biology teacher Molly Burgett.

Leah Penniman, a science teacher at Tech Valley High School in Troy, agreed.

“It’s an opportunity for them to go into more depth if it perks their interests,” said Penniman.

Participating students have been taking time after school and during their spring break talking to environmental professionals, including foresters, she said.

It also helps students choose future courses or jobs they might like to pursue, Burgett said.

Cobleskill-Richmondville senior Luke Ackerknecht said he is already planning courses at Cornell University next year that he hopes will lead to some sort of career making environmental policy decisions. Ackerknecht, 17, said he plans to combine studies of sociology, economics and environmental courses in college.

Categories: Schenectady County

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