DRHS Envirothon team makes a strong come back

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier jriley@digbycourier.ca
Published on June 13, 2014

The DRHS team just missed out on first place at the provincial Envirothon competition.

Officials announced that Northumberland Regional High School in Pictou County won the competition in Truro on Friday, May 29 but they haven’t released any more of the overall standings.

Although ten teams competed, they also released only the top three finishers in each of the five categories that make up the competition.

Fortunately the Digby team of Diana Hakim, Jayden MacDonald, Arda Kayral, Katie Milne and Jenna Amero made the top three in four out of the five categories.

Digby came first in soils, first in aquatics and first in forestry, they finished second in wildlife but don’t know how they did on the oral presentation on the agriculture theme.

This was Digby’s first team in two years and the young team was happy with their performance.

‘It was fun,” said Grade 12 student Katie Milne, the only member of the team that had been to a competition before. “I thought we could do well and it’s a good feeling when you study really hard and you find out you did know the material.”

The students’ first day in Truro included a visit to a sheep farm and to a Christmas tree farm.

The whole next day, they took four one-hour tests as a team in Victoria Park in Truro where they were presented with actual trees to be identified, for example, a stream to take water samples from which in turn had to measured, insects to be named, plus tracks, pelts and even scat of wildlife.

“Every year you’re in it, you build on the knowledge you learned before,” said Milne. “You start and learn your topic and then when you take the tests you see what you do know and what you don’t know.”


For example, Amero focused on forestry and was pretty confident a sample she was given to identify came from a tamarack tree. Later she was disappointed to see a label indicating it was a larch.

But then she screamed for happiness to learn that larch and tamarack are two names for the same tree and they had indeed given a correct answer.

Imagine how she felt when she learned the tree is also called hackmatack.

On another question the team couldn’t think of an extinct animal from this area and wrote down mammoth—not what the organizers were looking for, but correct.

'We've done so much fun stuff.'

Teacher Joanna Wilson coached the team with help from retired teacher and former Envirothon leader Greg Turner.

He took the students on a visit to Bear River Farms, a biodynamic farm belonging to Tilo Kolass; to Wild Rose Farm, an organic vegetable farm belonging to Gilberte Doelle; to a local woodlot for tree identification and even snowshoeing.

“It seems like we’ve done so much fun stuff,” said Amero, “And learned so much from it.”

Kayral said the Envirothon teaches useful information.

“We learned things that are relevant to real life,” he said. “It was all useful information—I like it better than calculus.”

Macdonald and Hakim are the only two returning students but they are both interested in competing again next year.

DRHS hadn’t had an Envirothon team since they finished second provincially in 2011.

The DRHS team won the provincial trophy eight times between 1998 and 2007.

Envirothon competitions are generally sponsored by forestry associations in Canada and Soil Conservation associations in the United States.

Normally the sponsors help the provincial winners travel to an international competition but the international competition was cancelled this year and instead the winners from Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia will be visiting Digby for a week of environmental science related activities.

But that’s another story.

Oh and could you think of an animal from this area which has gone extinct in relatively modern times?

A: the passenger pigeon.