The Oklahoma Envirothon is a team-based competition for high school students interested in learning about the fundamentals of natural resource management using science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It is part of an established North American program and is a fun, exciting way for students to learn about the environment and issues facing current and future generations. The competition combines in-class curriculum with hands-on field experiences to test students’ knowledge in five areas of study: aquatic ecology, forestry, soils and land use, wildlife, and a special topic (western rangelands in 2018).
The Oklahoma Envirothon competition had been around for years. While our youth education program had not yet been formalized, several of us here at the Noble Research Institute participated in the event as mentors and judges. In 2012, the Oklahoma Envirothon dissolved. We realized how well the competition aligned with our own youth education efforts, so we decided to host the competition in 2014 with help from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Oklahoma Forestry Service, Oklahoma City University (Oklahoma City University) and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. We hosted three teams and had a wonderful time. Since then, we have continued to host the competition. Participation has grown to 13 teams in 2018. The Noble Research Institute sponsors the state competition winners to travel to and compete in the North American competition, which is the last week of July. This year, the North American competition was held in Pocatello, Idaho.
In an effort to continue to build participation and help teachers develop, mentor and maintain Envirothon teams, we host hands-on teacher workshops designed to train teachers about the tools, techniques and topics the students will face at the competition. During the workshops, teachers learn from industry professionals from the Oklahoma Forestry Service, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma City University and the Noble Research Institute. They leave with a better understanding of how to prepare their students for the competition. Workshops are held each summer.
Envirothon is a great program for students to learn about the issues facing our natural resources in Oklahoma and North America, and we want to continue to foster a mindset that understands, respects, and stewards those resources for today’s and future generations to enjoy.