The Carbon County Environmental Education Center hosted its 29th annual Envirothon recently, testing the knowledge of enthusiastic environmental teams from local schools.

Chief environmentalist Susan Gallagher sees the Envirothon, sponsored by Lions Club International District 14-U Region II, serving many different functions. Educating students about the flora and fauna in their own backyards, exposing them to a different learning environment and connecting them with experts in numerous fields are just a few of the benefits the event offers.

“They’re learning about their local environment, they’re learning about it on many levels,” Gallagher said. “Whether it’s Pennsylvania’s environment, what’s going on at a local level, what’s going on globally, we can take things that they learn in the classroom or hear on the news and bring it down to the local level for them.”

Grades two and three, or “Snoops”; four and five, “Explorers”; six through eight, “Investigators”; and nine through 12, “Scientists” competed with gusto to take first place and declare themselves as environmental experts over the course of four days.

During the event, teams of five students moved from station to station, getting a quick lecture on subjects including forestry, wildlife, soil, aquatics, and agriculture, soil, and water conservation, followed by a group test. The wildlife station, for example, asked the kids to identify animal tracks or bird wings.

“They naturally love the outdoors,” Lehighton Area Middle School teacher Yvette Sharrow said of the students. “They’re interested in animals, they’re interested in the air we breathe and the ground we walk on. They talk about it on the bus ride all the way home.”

Ricky Ray, 12, a member of Weatherly’s team, has been to Envirothon five times.

“It gives you a better understanding of nature,” he said, pointing out that some of the things he learned will help with his prospective career in marine biology.

And for students such as Ray who are thinking about getting into an environmentally based occupation themselves one day, Envirothon serves as a perfect way to talk to someone in the field.

“We encourage them, ‘talk with the folks from the Bureau of Forestry, talk with the folks from the Fish and the Game Commissions, and ask about their jobs, ask about career opportunities that are available.’ It’s never too early to talk about that,” Gallagher said.

Ashley James, 13, another Weatherly team member, was very interested in learning more in order to help preserve the environment.

“I liked forestry, soil and aquatics. It helps you understand the environment better, and it teaches you how to protect it,” she said.

While students do learn new information at the Envirothon, much of it is garnered from their individual environmental groups at schools, or personal experience.

“The kids that work on farms, they excel at things like soil, because that’s what they live,” naturalist Franklin Klock said.

Lehighton Area Middle School teacher Todd Serfass was very pleased with his team’s victory on “Investigators” day, and said that the students’ interests in the sciences could bud into lucrative futures.

“I think Lehighton has established themselves as being very consistent, doing very well every year,” Serfass said. “I’d say over half of them will do something in the field of science.”