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The Spruce Mountain Envirothon team investigates and raises money for the international competition

The Spruce Mountain Envirothon team investigates and raises money for the international competition

Spruce Mountain High School’s Envirothon team members (from left) Natalie Furka, Lily Fortier, Leah Burgess and Hannah Dube are seen at the school in Jay on Tuesday evening, July 2. The team is preparing for the international competition to be held in New York later this month. At the time, member Brenden Veilleux was absent. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

JAY — While there is no school for most students during the summer, five Spruce Mountain High School students are studying harder than ever and raising funds to participate in an event later this summer.

Graduates Leah Burgess and Brenden Veilleux, along with Natalie Furka, Lily Fortier and Hannah Dube — who will be in next year’s graduating class — will compete in the National Conservation Foundation’s International Envirothon Championships at Hobart William Smith College in Geneva, New York, from July 28 to August 3. The team won the Maine competition in May, earning the right to represent the state and their school internationally.

To prepare for this competition, they learn about the water, forestry, soils and wildlife in this area of ​​New York while also considering possible scenarios for the current project they will be given during their stay in New York.

“The competition in Maine went pretty well,” Fortier said Tuesday evening, July 2. “The tests were pretty similar to those in previous years. Personally, I felt like we were very well prepared for it.”

Other teams were dealing with things that had never been seen before, but consultant Rob Taylor had mentioned seal skins on the drive there, so the team knew what it was, Fortier noted. “It’s not something you normally see,” she added.

“The competition was definitely there this year,” Burgess said. “It wasn’t like in years past where you win by 50 points.”

The team members are really close friends and can communicate with each other, Dube explained. “We agree on a lot of things and can communicate our plan,” she noted. “We don’t go back and forth and don’t know who to agree with.”

Good communication has helped prepare for competitions throughout the year, Fortier said, creating opportunities that other teams may not have had, “because we’re all very close outside of our team,” she noted.

“The team has an on/off switch,” Burgess explained. They can focus and switch into competition mode, she added.

The ground was somewhat of a challenge at the Maine competition, Furka said. The team will have to focus more on the texture and color of the ground in the future, she noted.

The soil samples are different, the tests are often copied and pasted, Dube explained. They change a little, but a lot is the same, she said.

Fortier noted that soils can also be subject to the interpretation of the assessor.

“We still have a sort of home field advantage in studying the four areas (water, forestry, soils and wildlife) and will use the same study patterns,” Burgess said. “For me, the real difference from the international competition is the current project. The fact that you have to do it in six hours means you have 20 minutes to talk. That changes things.”

She said the problem was much smaller than at the Maine events. It was important to prepare three team members who had not experienced this “very tough day,” she noted.

“Mr. Taylor prepared us well and gave us ideas and things to bring to our project,” said Fortier. “Of course, we don’t know what the scenario will be until we are in that room. He gave us good information.”

Taylor reported on the Haudenosaunee Federation, five different nations of indigenous peoples associated with the Seneca Lakes region of New York. They were an agricultural people and had learned to adapt to the local climate, he explained. It was a matriarchal society, and much of the American government is based on it, he noted. It is important to show how current problem-solving is connected to the history and culture of the region, he said. “It is important to understand the past,” he added.

“Brenden and I will bring the insights we have gained over the past years of competition,” Burgess explained.
“We’re excited for ourselves because I know this team is much stronger together. Brenden and I are excited to be with a new group of open-minded people and a new, fresh perspective.”

“One of the things that I’ve noticed about this group is that they’ve really come together as a team,” Taylor said. “They work together and I think that’s one of their strengths. They listen to each other very well.”

The team sold special glasses needed to view the eclipse earlier this year to raise money for the trip. A bottle drive can be held before the trip. Anyone interested in helping the team can email [email protected] or call or text 207-491-1137.

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