By Outreach and Education Manager, Rachel Calderara
Wildlands Trust first started coaching an Envirothon team at Brockton High School in 2015 in partnership with science teacher Joyce Voorhis. Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of working with many bright and talented students at after school meetings as they study forestry, soils, water and wildlife, and research a current environmental issue impacting their community. Dozens of students attended club meetings throughout this school year and eight of the most dedicated students – all freshman and sophomores no less – went on to represent Brockton High and Wildlands Trust at the 2019 Massachusetts Envirothon Competition on Friday, May 17.
It was a rainy day at Sholan Farms in Leominster, but that didn’t stop swarms of poncho-wearing high school students from taking this outdoor competition by storm. The Brockton High School team started by impressing a panel of judges with their current issue presentation: “Abundant, Affordable, Healthy Food”, as it pertains to their city. They explored how Brockton might be able to help feed a growing population in a city where fresh food is not always accessible.
Throughout the year, the team learned about this issue with the help of TerraCorps members Hayley Leonard and Alissa Young, Wildlands Education Manager Rachel Calderara, and teachers Joyce Voorhis and Melissa Kelly. They met with a variety of people in the city working towards increasing fresh food access for all, and volunteered at the Brockton High School community garden and at Langwater Farm in Easton. They turned their research into a well-rehearsed 15-minute presentation in the weeks leading up to the competition and now it was time to give it their all.
The team began the presentation with an overview of their city’s landscape and demographics, pointing out that in the most highly populated neighborhoods, the average income is lower than the national average, and there is very limited access to fresh food. They discussed the importance of the volunteer-run Community Garden Network in Brockton, which their school’s garden belongs to, as well as the significance of Brockton’s newly adopted Urban Agriculture Plan. They ended with recommendations for city officials and their big hopes and dreams for increasing food access and production in Brockton.
The judges were impressed with the team’s work and encouraged them to keep advocating for the cause. This summer, the students will be volunteering at their school’s community garden to help harvest and donate the produce grown there, with hopes of expanding garden educational programming next spring to the larger student body at Brockton High.
Our young team made us proud this year. Although it was most of their first times at Envirothon (we had one returner from last year’s team) they gave the competition their all. After the current issue presentation, the team split up to take hands-on field tests in soil, water, wildlife and forestry. They measured and identified trees, classified soil horizons and textures, tested and analyzed water quality, and identified wildlife tracks, pelts, and skulls. At the end of the day, Brockton took home 5th place in the water category!
The Massachusetts Envirothon is one of the most formative environmental programs available for high school students in our state and we at Wildlands Trust could not be more proud to be a part of it. We look forward to working with these students again next year as they continue to learn about our shared environment and begin their research on water resources for next year’s competition.