Competition explores outdoors

CORTLAND — Sixth- to eighth-graders from Bristol, Brookfield, Champion and LaBrae learned about forestry, water quality and native species at the annual fall Junior Envirothon.

The friendly educational competition featured teams going to five stations.

Amy Reeher, district administrator / watershed coordinator of Trumbull Soil and Water Conservation District, said the students learn about current environmental issues, such as the importance of pollinators.

“We see how to help save different pollinators such as honeybees and monarch butterflies. We have professionals in different fields providing information and data to the students. The students are learning the importance of natural resources,” she said.

Mandy Razzano with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said the EPA looks at the organism in water and soil to determine quality.

“This is not just reading a book but actual hands-on learning. The students enjoy the outdoors and remember more. They get to see firsthand what they learn in the classroom through real-life situations. When I was a student and we did outside learning, it was a lot easier to remember,” she said.

Razzano said the EPA also looks at macroinvertebrates to see what pollution is in the water.

“The Ohio EPA is one of only five states to use biology to determine how clean the water is and the effect on macroinvertebrates and other life. Most other states use chemicals,” she said.

Macroinvertebrates have no backbones, such as salamanders.

She said the No. 1 water pollutant is mud.

LaBrae science teacher Cory Hinzman said he likes taking his students from the classroom to the real world.

“They get a real-world experience. I spoke about Leavittsburg, where the river is in our backyard. When we see nature outside, it extends the learning beyond the classroom and allows students to make real-world connections,” he said.

Reeher said the students are seeing how pollinators impact the environment and ways they can help protect it.

Jeff Howell of Doll Lumber taught the students how the emerald ash bore killed ash trees but won’t eat the seedlings and smaller trees. He showed them tree rings used to determine age.

LaBrae student Thomas Khlem, 13, said he learned much about what is in nature in the local area.