Ontario Envirothon: Creating Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow

By: Laura Copeland

Allison Hands, Education Manager at Forests Ontario
Allison Hands, Education Manager at Forests Ontario

The Ontario Envirothon, held each spring, provides a unique opportunity for high school students to engage with the natural world, to learn how resources are managed, and to learn about the various careers and education pathways within the field.

“Regardless of the career path students choose after Envirothon, they will have a deeper understanding and appreciation for natural systems, and will be better able to make informed decisions about the environment,” says Allison Hands, Education Manager at Forests Ontario.

Forests Ontario has coordinated Ontario’s Envirothon program for close to 25 years, and the organization works with regional partners and sponsors – including Fleming College – to host local Envirothon workshops and competitions.

In fact, Rob Monico, with Fleming’s Office of Sustainability, participated in the Wellington-Waterloo Regional Envirothon Competition when he was in high school.

“The workshop and competition days inspired me to keep learning as much as I could about environmental issues. More importantly, I felt inspired and empowered enough to know that I could make a difference in environmental issues,” he says.

Rob’s participation in the event has come full circle. In April, he helped organize the regional Peterborough-Kawarthas-Northumberland Envirothon, which was hosted at Fleming’s Sutherland Campus. He also attended the Ontario Envirothon as a judge in May.

The Peterborough-Kawarthas-Northumberland Envirothon was a new regional competition initiated in 2017 for high schools in the area – there was no competition prior to this. A number of local organizations have worked together to launch and support this regional competition. These include Sustainable Peterborough, the County of Peterborough, Otonabee Region Conservation Authority, local school boards, and Fleming College.

envirothon-friendsThe 2018 regional competitions had 140 teams competing in total, with more than 1,000 students, teachers and volunteers participating across Envirothon events in Ontario. Winning teams from each region go on to compete at the Ontario Envirothon, which was held in Waterloo and featured 21 teams made up of 126 students and teachers.

Fleming College has hosted the Ontario Envirothon event several times at Frost Campus, and was also the co-host of the North American Envirothon championships with Trent University in 2016.

“This is an event we support because Fleming College believes in creating the next generation of environmental leaders. And, more importantly, assisting those leaders today to grow through experiential education opportunities,” says Rob.

“We have faculty, staff and students supporting this event from a variety of program areas,” adds Trish O’Connor, Director of Fleming’s Office of Sustainability. “It is also a great opportunity to showcase the wonderful natural environments at Fleming College to high school students, teachers, and the community.”

Rob explains that students take away a variety of skills by participating in the event. During the workshops and competition, students use different types of field equipment such as tree calipers, soil triangles, and dichotomous keys. Five major topics are covered – forestry, soils, aquatics, wildlife, and a fifth topic that changes every year. (This year it was climate change.)

“Teams also have to synthesize information into a coherent, timed presentation. Through this portion of the program, students develop their critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving and public speaking skills,” says Allison.

For Forests Ontario, Envirothon is a natural fit. The organization’s three pillars are tree planting, community engagement and awareness, and forest education.

“We champion Envirothon because it’s Ontario’s largest environmental competition, it promotes forest education, and it’s a really enriching experience for the students who take part,” says Allison. “We believe this competition helps to create future ‘Green Leaders.’”

———————————————————

Forests Ontario works with a number of partners and sponsors to deliver Envirothon. Regionally, it works with conservation authorities, post-secondary institutions, professional/industry organizations, government, and charities/non-profits. The organization also offers additional education programs, including the 50 Million Tree Program, Forestry in the Classroom, and TD Tree Bee. For more information, visit: forestsontario.ca

For more information about Fleming College’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences, visit: flemingcollege.ca/SENRS