CHS Students Get Their Hands Dirty Through the Envirothon


Katharyn MacDonald, Contributor

In today’s digital world filled with indoor comforts, one can easily forget to go outside and simply enjoy one’s surroundings. Some CHS students, however, keep in touch with nature through a hands-on approach to connecting to the world around them. Members of the Envirothon team are putting their heads together to create a fun and successful year of learning and competition. 

There are numerous topics the members can concentrate on through this club. All the pieces come together, and the students gain a broader knowledge of how the world works and how human intervention affects environmental health. 

Senior Riley Strain said, “We always get told erosion is bad, but what do those effects actually look like? Being able to answer questions like that is my favorite part.” 

Senior Oliver Simon said, “Trees are something I’m really interested in… I’m able to delve deeper into those and see how everything connects. I ended up learning a lot about soil science just because of being interested in forestry.” 

“My favorite part of this club is learning about the aquatic side of our local environment, like watershed and the Chesapeake Bay,” said senior Damon Vaughan. 

Other topics spotlighted in the Envirothon include wildlife, natural resources, aquatic ecology, and land use. 

The benefits of everything these nature enthusiasts learn can easily be seen just by looking around at Southern Maryland’s local environment. “I used to know nothing about plant identification… I was a passerby,” Simon said. “I can now point out about 90% of the trees here, which is a great skill. And sometimes you learn a skill that’s not just for the competition, just because it’s interesting.” 

Calvert County has plenty of local environment to discover, and the Envirothon team goes on field trips to gain hands-on experience. The best experience of all comes from the competition they prepare for throughout the school year. All of their hard work and dedication pays off during the ultimate challenge, where the students compete in small groups to exercise their knowledge and test their skills. 

At last year’s Envirothon competition, a CHS team won 1st place, scoring 316 points out of a possible 400. CHS students also made up the 3rd place team, who scored 269 points. 

“I think meeting the resource people who are actually working in one area of the Envirothon resource group is really powerful,” said club sponsor and environmental science teacher Mr. Charles Gustin. “They see real people who do this job for a living, find out some information on it, and can ask lots of questions.” 

The Envirothon team hopes that their efforts bring awareness to the importance of taking care of the nature surrounding us. “Climate issues and environmental health are pressing matters and relevant subjects today, and we try to really get out and get involved,” said senior Sean Childress. 

In addition, the global-scale strategies learned by the students can be applied to their lives anywhere that they go. “Envirothon teaches people about how things interact… an example being waste management. The best way to raise awareness is through education,” said Strain. 

“(The students) realize they will be voting soon and that their voices do matter. Their vote does count,” said Mr. Gustin.  

Like all clubs, the Envirothon team is formed of people who came together and made connections through shared interests. Senior Katie Maguire said about her fellow club members, “These are my best friends, and if I hadn’t joined, we wouldn’t be as close as we are now. We spend a lot of time together building these strong relationships, which is a really cool aspect of participating in this club.” 

Senior Dorian Jones agrees. “My favorite part of this club is the people,” he said. “The people are real.” 

The students participating in the Envirothon agree that what they learn benefits themselves and the environment surrounding them. According to senior Will Coughlin, a unique aspect of the activity is that “it’s unlike other clubs. It has an effect on the world outside.”