Resourceful research Fort Cooper State Park plays host to regional contest for educational program

More than 50 teams of teens put on their thinking caps for a day of scientific study Feb. 21 at the 2017 Nature Coast Envirothon regional competition at Fort Cooper State Park in Inverness.

From rubbing rocks with their fingers to testing local water supplies, 300 high school students from Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Sumter counties competed for individual scholarships sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and the New Port Richey Rotary Club.

The Envirothon, a program of the National Conservation Foundation, is a problem-solving, natural resources education program to test high school students in the environment around them.

Every four years, it rotates to Fort Cooper State Park, where busloads of students put their wits to the test in hopes of going on to state competition. Organizations adopt stations and create tests based on their field of study in the areas of soils, forestry, agriculture, aquatics and wildlife.

Teams raced through tests at five stations, with only 25 minutes to complete 20 complicated questions.

Tasks included identifying a bat carcass and live snakes. Students also guessed the age of a deer based on a jawbone and answered questions such as how much water drains from an area specified on a map.

Citrus County’s teams were all comprised of students from the Academy of Environmental Science and Lecanto High School IB program. The students chose their team names. Representing Citrus were: Alternative EPA, iPhones Only + Jay, IB Slayin’, Reel Legends, Flatworms and Majestic Sea Flap Flaps.

Students from the Academy of Environmental Science said the competition is well aligned with what they do and study each day in class.

“We’re exposed to this stuff a lot more than others,” Colton Barnes, captain of the Reel

Legends, said. “We are doing our best to represent our school.”

The Academy of Environmental Science’s

Majestic Sea Flap Flaps took first place in Aquatics, Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Stewardship, along with compiling the highest score overall.

The top team from each county will join the Majestic Sea Flap Flaps at the state Envirothon April 29.

Citrus County’s winning team, Majestic Sea Flap Flaps, members are Kelley Laplante, Bryce Laplante, Jason Laplante, Katy Kallenbach and Michelle Beno.

“We outscored Lecanto for the honor of representing Citrus County at the state competition,” said Academy of Science instructor Ward Cooper. “I am not just proud of my school, it is impressive to see that many students engaged in science.”

Agencies represented at the Nature Coast Envirothon were the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, District School Board of Pasco County, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Hernando County Government, Division of Forestry, Southwest Florida Water Management District and Covanta.

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