James Pinsky: How to make squirrels march

James Pinsky

I bet you didn’t know squirrels can march.

They can. The trick is to give them a reason, like a free all-you-can-eat acorn buffet, or better yet, a parade to celebrate one of our local schools winning the Virginia Envirothon championship.

Every year high schools across our region assemble, train and inspire wonderfully dedicated, compassionate and down-right earthy teams of students who compete for the title of Virginia’s Envirothon champion. Last year, a superb team from Fort Defiance High School in Augusta County won.

With all due respect to Augusta County, I think that trophy belongs here, and for a lot more reasons than seeing a gray squirrel goose-step to the local high school fight song.

So, let’s help.

We have some strong teams. Our local district champion, Strasburg High School, is always a threat to shake things up on a statewide level. We’ve also got solid teams at Central High School, Sherando, Millbrook, and new for this year, teams at the Mountain Vista Governor’s School and Skyline High School.

So, let’s help.

These are our children. They are volunteers who want to study, learn and apply their brains, hearts and souls toward being the very best natural resource academic teams in the nation. What they learn cannot just help them; it can, no doubt, someday likely save us all.

So, let’s help.

Every team has a coach. And, like most programs, our coaches are volunteers. I’ve met them all, and they’re bright, compassionate and incredibly unselfish. But, like most teachers they are asked to do too much with too little.

So, let’s help.

The Virginia Envirothon, officially, is a natural resources-based competition for 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 which is defended by oral presentation.

So, let’s help.

Are you an honest-to-goodness expert in soils, aquatics, wildlife or forestry? What about business plans, or financial management, map making, or public speaking? The oral presentation category requires a team of students to envision and present a comprehensive plan that solves a natural resource-related problem in our region to a panel of judges. This year’s topic happens to focus on a subject near and dear to our soil and water conservation district hearts, agricultural soil and water conservation stewardship.

You see, Envirothon requires skills and knowledge in all of these areas.

So, let’s help.

Don’t bother calling the local and state agencies to see if they will pitch in. They already do. I’m asking you, the residents of the City of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties, and even commuters who pass through our region. I’m looking for volunteers who can and ought to help our community build the best Envirothon teams not just in Virginia but the nation. We can, you know. We have the talent in the school systems and in our professional communities to be the very best at anything we set our minds to.

OK! I’ll Help. But, how?

Teams need mentors, subject matter experts, and plain old-fashioned community support. You can volunteer to teach, serve as a mentor or simply give what you have be it mind, body or soul to help educate, inspire or support one of our teams.

So, let’s help.

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.