WARM BEACH — Stanwood High School’s environmental team gathered with other students from around the state Wednesday on the edge of the muddy tidal flats of Port Susan.
It seemed fitting that a sunny day marked the start of the annual state high school Envirothon competition at Warm Beach Cam
p, hosted this year by the Snohomish Conservation District.
The students sat on driftwood logs as they looked across the estuary and out to the sparkling waters of the bay. They listened to environmental educator Nicole Hopper of Taylor Shellfish Farms in Skagit County talk about marine life, storm drain pollution and the benefits of eel grass to the restoration of native shellfish beds in Washington.
Abner Serrana and Saul Iniguez, seniors at Quincy High in Eastern Washington marveled at the geoduck clam that Hopper brought to show.
“There is such a huge variety of plants and animals here,” Saul said.
On the walk through the woods back to camp, the Stanwood team did some practicing for today’s competition. Students are tested on their knowledge of soils, forests, wildlife, aquatic ecosystems and environmental issues by rotating through five field stations where they take part in hands-on problem solving, short written tests and an oral presentation.
These five big guys, all Future Farmers of America, rehearsed by carefully identifying native plants. Under the watchful eye of their teacher, Stanwood alumnus and natural resources teacher Todd Jacobsen, they picked out false lily of the valley, trillium, red-flowering currant, ocean spray, elderberry and Robert’s geranium.
Smell the geranium, Jacobsen encouraged them.
“Yeah, it stinks!” said senior Brandon Nickels. “Thanks for that Mr. Jacobsen!”
Laughing, the other boys — seniors Aaron Olson and Jacob Flake, junior Thor Pearson and sophomore Leif Small — kept working on their test preparation. They were nervous about upholding the school’s winning tradition.
Last year, the Envirothon team from Stanwood earned the highest score, was named tops in the state and went on to compete in the national tournament. This is normal stuff for Stanwood’s agriculture, career and technology students. They frequently win big at national FFA, tech and natural resource conventions, and the school’s ag department is considered one of the best in the region.
By noon today, the winning state team will have its tickets to compete in the North American Envirothon tournament, which will attract teams from all 50 states and most Canadian provinces to New Brunswick, Canada, in July.
“We’re goin’ for it,” Thor said.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.