North Harford students branch out; Prepping for Envirothon competition


Open to all high school students, Envirothon offers a hands-on learning experience to its participants. Teams made up of five students spend a majority of their school year studying five topics involving Maryland’s natural resources. 

     According to Mrs. Laura O’Leary, environmental science teacher, teams study and train to better their understanding of a variety of environmental topics. This year’s topics include aquatics, soil, forestry, wildlife and a fifth topic that changes every year. In past years, this topic has ranged from invasive species to conservation; this year’s topic focuses on groundwater.  “Our practices are super fun as we are very social team who are very passionate about the environment,” said junior and second year Envirothon participant Joshua Parsons.

       O’Leary explains, the hands-on competition dedicated to teaching students about the environment includes study guides as well as PowerPoints provided by Envirothon as resources to prepare for competition. Tests from past years are reviewed during meetings to further the knowledge of participants.   “It’s a really fun group to work with and we learn a lot of new and interesting things about our environment in the process,“said junior Erin O’Leary.

      So far, North Harford’s Envirothon team has attended a Fall Workshop at Rock State Park where five, one-hour sessions were held. A separate training focused on this year’s fifth issue will be attended in January. All training, testing and meetings aim for success at competition day. 

     “The Rock State Fall Workshop was a very fun and informative experience with lots of professionals in their respective fields; everyone was so knowledgeable and there were fun hands-on activities…” said  Parsons. He added that the crew took a macro invertebrates sample in the creek, completed tree identification in the forest and practiced with soil sample equipment.

     Participants are expected to memorize and master their topics, knowing all resources by heart. Topics such as forestry require students to identify the species of the tree as well as determine the height and age of the tree. In doing this, students develop environmental knowledge that is not taught in a class. 

     “Envirothon is a very fun and immersive experience filled with lots of learning opportunities. You don’t have to be an expert on all things environmental because Mrs. O’Leary is an excellent teacher who will provide many opportunities for you to learn,” commented Parsons.      


  Some schools do offer an Envirothon class, including Harford Christian.    Teams can compete to win scholarships and other awards locally, statewide and internationally.