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TrekNorth Envirothon competing now at nationals

MONTE DRAPER \ BEMIDJI PIONEER Four of the five members of the TrekNorth Envirothon team visit with one another last week in preparation for this week's 2013 North American Envirothon, the national level of the Envirothon competition. Pictured are, clockwise from left, Isaiah Chalmers, Hannah Lash, Annikka Roy and Hannah Marty. Not pictured is Lily Fulton.

BEMIDJI -- While their classmates may be soaking up the last remaining weeks of summer, five TrekNorth students have been preparing for a weeklong science test.

The TrekNorth Envirothon team this week is in Bozeman, Mont., competing in the national Envirothon competition, joining 53 other teams -- 46 teams from U.S. states and eight from Canadian provinces -- on the Montana State University campus.

TrekNorth, competing in its second consecutive nationals, won the right to represent Minnesota in May after winning the statewide competition at St. John's University.

The team left Saturday. The competition, which involves written examinations and an oral presentation, concludes Friday.

"It's like knowledge bowl for the environment," said Annikka Roy, who will be a senior this fall.

"Knowledge bowl plus speech," added Hannah Marty, who graduated in May and this fall will attend Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.

Envirothon teams, each consisting of five members, are tested on five aspects of science: soil, aquatics, wildlife, forestry and current events. The current event topic -- the focus of the oral presentation -- changes every year. This year's topic was rotational grazing and pasture management.

Team member each are assigned an area to study. Hannah Lash, who graduated in May and will attend Franciscan University in Ohio this fall, is focusing on the current event topic; Marty is focused on forestry; Roy is studying aquatics; Lily Fulton, who will be a junior this fall, is studying soils; and incoming junior Isaiah Chalmers is focusing on wildlife.

"It's articles, research articles, different people writing about different topics, so it can be interesting," Lash said of the research.

"There's a good mix of them," Marty said, referencing the content of the articles to be studied. "There's the ones that are really, really hard and then there's other ones (that are less challenging or focused)."

Envirothon members began re-convening as a team twice a week a couple of weeks ago as they made their final preparations for nationals. Last year, the team ended around 30th in the national competition and this year is hoping to finish in the top half of all participants.

"One of the things that is interesting at nationals is to see how other states and provinces do and how their teams work together or don't work together," said team coach Jennifer Roy, TrekNorth science teacher. "It's super intense, I was blown away."

There is scholarship money at stake and Canon, a major sponsor, provides technological awards to top-finishing teams.

"A lot of the kids are intense," Annikka Roy said. "Last year there was a team and all but one member was really intense. And that one member, he was just kind of like, 'This is cool and fun,' and we just kind of adopted him. He was funny and he was our honorary Minnesotan."

The students, speaking before they left last weekend, said they have a good time together and, while they do well, do not get as intense as some of their competitors.

"We definitely have fun," Marty said.

"I think the great thing is we have a lot of fun, but we still do really well," Jennifer Roy said.

TrekNorth team members have worked with one another through other activities and TrekNorth, a charter school, is small enough where students get to know one another well.

"One of the things I like about working with this team in particular ... is how well they do work together," Jennifer Roy said. "When somebody needs help with their presentation skills or something, everybody else is really there to support them and help them. They're really there for each other."

TrekNorth, which is in its fourth year now of having a Envirothon team, last year established a junior high team. Members of this year's national-qualifying team said that will likely help the program continue to succeed as it moved into the future.

"I think it's going to really help us, to train them when they're in seventh and eighth grade, about what Envirothon really is," Jennifer Roy said.