AES takes gold at State Envirothon Youths now ready for national competition

Julie Gorham / Citrus Chronicle

CRYSTAL RIVER — The Academy of Environmental Science’s Majestic Sea Flap-Flaps recently won the State Envirothon, sending them to compete against the best science schools in the nation in July.

This group walked away with first place overall at the State Envirothon, making a huge jump from sixth place last year while earning them significant bragging rights for years to come.

“Our school is all about the environment and we have a team that takes this to heart,” said AES Science and Outdoor Education teacher Ward Cooper. “For the longest time, the state winner has been from Miami-Dade counties, so this shines a light on our tiny school that makes a big impact.”

The Majestic Sea Flap Flaps are five students, with three being siblings, and all being the best of friends: Bryce LaPlante, Michelle Beno, Jason LaPlante, Kelly LaPlante and Katy Kallenbach. This academic group is not bashful in admitting the state competition was much harder, with more specific questions on topics focusing on five areas of study: aquatic ecology, forestry, soils/land use, wildlife and a current environmental issue on the invasive screwworm.

The club held its spot at the state competition, earning them the first-place title, similarly to how they fought for first-place overall at the regional Envirothon earlier in the year at Fort Cooper State Park.

“It was a lot more precise details on the local environment,” Bryce LaPlante said. “I remember you guys did an article about screwworms; turns out, that was one of the questions and we only knew it because we read in the paper three months before.”

Students said there is a rythmn to these competitions, and that is why a school of a little more than 100 students can win such state academic competitions over larger districts.

“Some of the other teams look at us like ‘uh, oh,” but they also know we are the smallest school for competition both for the Ocean Bowl and the Envirothon, and they also know we pack a heck of a punch,” Cooper said.

The students said the key is doing well across the board — not trying to be the best, but doing well.

“If you look, we make second place in some categories, but overall, our points are higher than all schools,” Kelly LaPlante said.

As the overall winning team of the 2017 Florida Envirothon, each student walked away with a $500 scholarship with entrance fee and room and board fully paid for five days of the national competition; it is up to them to raise the money for airfare, extra meals and additional activities.

“We are asking the public to donate whatever they can. This is an incredible opportunity for these students, and they are representing Florida and, more importantly, Citrus County Schools,” said mother and travel companion Patricia Kallenbach.

To donate, visit the team’s Pledge Cents fundraising account at

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