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Students used specialized equipment to problem solve during trail testing

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 Adding Excitement to Environmental Education

Dates for 2000 competition set.

A program with the objective "to increase student's awareness of the environment, ecosystems and the natural balance and complexity of these systems" could get to be very boring for young people. But not the way the Manitoba Forestry Association goes about it.

They're meeting this objective through a program called Envirothon. The 1999 event attracted 70 students from a dozen schools to Spruce Woods Provincial Park. The teams engaged in a competition to test their knowledge forests, soils, aquatics, wildlife and current environmental issues.

It took a lot of advance planning to make the Manitoba Envirothon as successful as it was. Meetings of the Volunteer Steering Committee were held at regular intervals throughout the fall and winter, and once a week as the Provincial Envirothon approached. The Committee was responsible for all aspects of the competition, including test writing, designing and ordering of t-shirts, transportation, working with Canadian Forces Base Shilo to provide accommodation and food and as the site for the Orals, booking Spruce Woods Provincial Park for the trail testing component, and finding volunteers for the multitude of jobs to be undertaken during the event.

Members of the Logistics and Test Writing Teams were at Spruce Woods Provincial Park on Thursday, May 27th setting up the test trails. A large tent was put up at Kiche Manitou, which became home base for the trail testing and other activities during the day.

The 12 teams that participated in the competition included Arthur Meighan High School, Portage la Prairie; Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School, Brandon; Edward Schreyer School, Beausejour; Fort Richmond Collegiate, Winnipeg; Gimli High School, Gimli; Maples Collegiate, Winnipeg; W. C. Miller Collegiate, Altona; Pembina Valley Conservation District Environmental Youth Club; Powerview, (Manitoba Model Forest), Shaftesbury High School, Winnipeg; Swan Valley Regional Secondary School, Swan River; and Vincent Massey Collegiate, Winnipeg.

On Friday, May 28 the teachers and students boarded highway buses to transport them to Spruce Woods Provincial Park. At 10 a.m. students and teachers participated in training stations at Kiche Manitou during which they received information on various aspects of the Envirothon topics: forestry, soils, water, aquatics and fire management. Trail testing began at 10:30 a.m. with 14 teams, including two teams of alternates. Trail captains and their assistants were responsible for keeping time and assisting as needed.

During the afternoon teachers participated in a workshop delivered by Mike James on "EcoAction 2000 Community Action Initiatives". Several teachers described environmental projects in which they and their students were already involved. There was a good discussion and the session ended with Mike James promising to visit the individual schools in June and/or September.

Dan Bulloch of Manitoba Natural Resources met with the teachers later in the afternoon to discuss the trail testing process, and offered them the opportunity to tour one of the trails so they would be more familiar with what the students had been asked to do.

The Honourable Glen Cummings, then Minister of Natural Resources, spoke briefly at the Friday evening dinner and presented the Envirothon with a cheque for $ 500 to sponsor breakfast the following morning. Bob Buck, Fire Management, Manitoba Natural Resources, gave an informative presentation on "Fire", followed by a presentation by Allen Tyrchniewicz, International Institute of Sustainable Development, on "Climate Change". Students were advised that any information from these presentations could be helpful during their preparation for Oral Testing the next morning

On Saturday, instructions concerning the Oral Testing were given to the competing teams, including times they should report to prepare and present. The 12 competing teams (with alternates) were then sequestered for 3 hours to prepare their presentations.

During the afternoon teachers were invited to meet with Dan Bulloch for a debriefing session. Dan received valuable feedback, which will be of assistance in preparing for next year's testing.

Each team had the opportunity to review their notes for 1/2 hour prior to their presentation. Three panels of judges, teachers and alternates from that team, and a small audience of MFA staff and volunteers listened as one team after the other presented information on the special environmental topic: Fire Management. Teams were limited to 10 minutes, during which time all team members were required to participate in the presentation. An additional 10 minutes at the end was devoted to questions from the judges.

Once the first series of presentations was completed, the entire group moved to the Base Theatre, where at 4 p.m. the four finalists were announced. They were Fort Richmond Collegiate, Winnipeg; W. C. Miller Collegiate, Altona; Vincent Massey Collegiate, Winnipeg and Swan Valley Regional Secondary School, Swan River. The entire group of judges participated in selecting a winner

The testing committee and judges completed their final tallies, and determined the winner of the Provincial Competition. Swan Valley Regional School took First Place.

Envirothon-winners.jpg (14236 bytes)
The winning team from Swan Valley Regional School.

Fort Richmond Collegiate placed second, and Vincent Massey Collegiate came in third. 

Swan River went on to represent Manitoba at the Canon Envirothon in Arcata, California in late July. In competition with over 40 teams from across the U.S., they tied for 8th place, by far the best a Canadian team has done in this event.

In 2000, the Manitoba Provincial Envirothon Competition will be held from the evening of May 25th through May 27th, 2000, with activities at 17 Wing Canadian Forces Base in Winnipeg, and at Oak Hammock Marsh.