James Pinsky: A child shall lead us

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors – we borrow it from our children.”

This quote, which by the way has never accurately been credited to anyone, serves as a great example of the proper frame of mind we should have to understand our role in conservation. So, since the Earth belongs to our youngest generation, it should make sense we involve them in the conservation as soon as possible. The Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Districts do just that by facilitating a robust series of natural resources education programs, including one known as “Envirothon.”

Think “Quiz Bowl”- in the woods – with a furry twist.

Officially, the Virginia Envirothon is a natural resources-based competition for Virginia high school students. The Envirothon teams are challenged to learn and apply environmental science and natural resource management knowledge of soils, forestry, aquatics, wildlife and an alternating, year-to-year specific environmental issue. This year’s topic happens to be how to mitigate an invasive species problem.

The Envirothon provides local youth an opportunity to become engaged in all areas related to the environment,” said Blake Rogers, Outreach Coordinator/TMDL Technician with the Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, which in addition to their own local district Envirothon competition will host the Area I Envirothon competition April 26 at Natural Chimneys in Mount Solon, Virginia. “The Envirothon contest allows our students to work closely with local natural resources personnel and to develop foundational skills needed to become competent leaders in natural resources conservation. This team-based contest allows students to create solutions for real world conservation issues within Virginia.”

That’s a bit more than hanging a few “Please Recycle” flyers and picking up litter, folks. Hence, if you’re a high schooler – or the parent of one looking for a real-world academic challenge and you happen to want to help save our world, Envirothon might be for you.

Still not convinced? Cue Blake Rogers, who thinks the skills and knowledge gained by Envirothon allows students to become environmental stewards of their local communities. “Student have a broadened awareness of local and state conservation efforts and what they can do to assist local resource personnel,” he explained. “This contest provides hands-on experiences that often foster long-term interest in natural resources and conservation.”

Rogers speaks from experience, The Eastern Mennonite University graduate cut his conservation teeth as an Envirothon competitor in high school. “As an Envirothon student I worked with soil and water conservation district staff and made personal connections that lead to an internship as a college senior; this eventually lead to my current position.”

Rogers makes key points in the additional value Envirothon participation gives students in the sense it takes them well beyond the classroom but serves as an excellent platform for networking, mentorship and community service. And, as many of we adults know, education coupled with experience and mentorship is a sure-fire recipe for success on any level. Rogers proves this.

“The Envirothon allowed me to consider environmental studies as a viable option in college,” he said. “When compared to my peers, I felt that I had an advantage in college classes as the Envirothon had given me a foundational knowledge base. Additionally, our office has supported college interns who had participated in the Envirothon as high school students.”

There’s more good news everyone. If you would like to get involved in the Envirothon experience as a student, teacher, parent or plain-old do-gooder, you can! In fact, if you fall under the tree canopies of Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District which shadows the City of Winchester and the counties of Shenandoah, Clarke, Frederick, and Warren you should know our Envirothon is scheduled for April 6, 2016. To learn more, call us at 540-465-2424, ext. 104 or email me directly at james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.

James Pinsky is the Education and Information Coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.