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South Jeff Envirothon team to attend state competition

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WATERTOWN — Jefferson County students spent the day identifying trees from branches, animals by their pelts and soil by touch, and using environmental knowledge from the classroom during the 21st annual Envirothon.

The Envirothon is a series of interactive contests in which high school students compete in areas such as soils, aquatics, forestry, wildlife and a current environmental issue. This year’s issue is “sustainable local agriculture/locally grown.”

South Jefferson Central School took first place in the competition, with Alexandria Bay Central School coming in second.

“Alexandria Bay has won the competition for the past six years,” said Jake M. Ambrose, a technician with the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District, who organized the contest. “We have a new school to take the title and represent Jefferson County at the state competition.”

South Jefferson students will compete at the New York State Envirothon May 21 and 22 at Morrisville State College.

To qualify, teams of up to five students submit a video in which they describe the social, environmental and economic effects of sustainability. The students are judged for their insights and solutions to environmental concerns.

“It was a great way to apply classroom knowledge in a career-ready setting,” said Belleville Henderson Central School agriculture teacher Tedra J. Bean.

The conservation district holds the annual competition for high school students at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park. Students from nine high schools in Jefferson County competed Wednesday. Mr. Ambrose said the nine participating districts were South Jefferson, Sackets Harbor, Indian River, Carthage, Alexandria Bay, General Brown, LaFargeville and Belleville Henderson Central School.

The tests were administered by members of the Soil and Water Conservation District, the Department of Environmental Conservation, Natural Resources Conservation Services of New York and zoo education staff.

Levi F. Rudd, a technician for the Jefferson County Soil and Water Department, said the tests were compiled using resources and readings from Envirothon.

“The focus is primarily on what needs to be done to support food and producers locally,” Mr. Rudd said. “The goal is to encourage the sustainability of local farms.”

Students were asked to profile soil samples and determine what factors determine their classification.

Thousand Islands Central School senior Brentyn K. Horton said he thought the soil project was the hardest. “We haven’t used the tools before,” he said. “We haven’t covered that information a lot in class.”

Zoo education coordinator Joli Reynolds said she chose questions that challenge the students in wildlife and ecology. “I put in things they might not learn until a college-level course,” Mrs. Reynolds said.

General Brown sophomore Haley H. Saiff said one of the harder parts of the competition was identifying trees. “There were no leaves to give it away,” she said. “Leaves give a lot of information of the tree species. We had to try to guess based on the branches and bark structure.”

Haley joined the competition as an alternate to gain experience for future competitions and to use skills from her science class in a practical setting. “I want to study marine biology,” she said. “There are a lot of places to study environmental science in the area but any practice can help.”

Mr. Ambrose said the day was a success and the students were very spirited.

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