By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Middle and high school students explored their natural environment Friday morning to the backdrop of clear blue skies and evergreen trees on Steve Wordsworth’s property near Leggett.
About 350 students from nine area counties came to the Edgecombe County site to take part in the Area IV Envirothon competition.
“They’re here today to take the final test,” said Scott Kiser, chair of the competition. “There are five stations — wildlife station, soils, forestry, aquatics and environmental issues. Each station consists of a 25-question test. They participate in teams.”
Sub-Chronic Exposure, a team from Enloe High School in Wake County, earned the first-place title for high school for the second year in a row.
“We got people to study hard and had a lot of fun along the way,” said Prakhar Naithani, team captain. This marks the high-school senior’s third year in the competition. Naithani wants to study chemical engineering and specialize in some sort of environmental field. The first-place team receives college scholarships for each member.
Naithani mentioned “good food” and “great weather” added to his positive experience in Friday’s competition. The students enjoyed eating chicken on the grill, donated by Rev. Richard Joyner of Conetoe Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, and vegetables and hushpuppies courtesy of Abrams BBQ in the outdoor shelter.
Margaret Knight, director of the Edgecombe County soil and water conservation district, called Friday’s Envirothon “a total team effort.”
“We had over 60 volunteers today,” she said. The county previously hosted the regional Envirothon competition at the same location in 2006.
“The community involvement was nice, everybody from the sheriff (James Knight) to the soil and conservation office,” said Kiser.
Knight said she was pleased with the effort she saw from the students during Friday’s competition.
“I think they participate because they have a real interest. They work very hard preparing for this day,” said Knight. “I think it helps them to fully understand our environment and how important it is to protect it. If you don’t protect it, then when you need it in the future, it’s not available.”
“I love being outside,” Naithani said. “We go on a lot of field trips. We get out and get our hands dirty.”
“The hands-on experience makes them problem solvers,” said Chad Ogren, the team’s advisor. “They have to use their combined knowledge to come up with practical solutions.”
Hannah Shearon, a 13-year-old home-schooled student from Nash County, said she enjoyed studying aquatics the most because she aspires to become a marine biologist.
“Water covers most of the earth and we depend on it a lot, so it’s really important to keep it clean,” she said. Her 10-year-old brother Benjamin said he learned how to determine water quality by the type of insects in the area.
“If it has mayflies, it’s a good indication that you’ll have good water quality,” Benjamin Shearon said. Fellow team member David Hoggard, 11, tried his hand at measuring the width of a tree.
“It will help you estimate how many logs you can get out of it,” he said. The Nash County “Leaping Lizards” placed third in the middle school competition, behind the Wilson 4-H Envirothon Club and a home school study group from Wilson County.