For teens, this test was a natural
By PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2001
INVERNESS -- The cool, quiet stillness of Fort Cooper State Park was broken Thursday morning when hundreds of high school students from four counties unloaded from cars and buses to participate in the 2001 Nature Coast Regional Envirothon.
The overall winning team was from Pasco High School and called itself "The Group Formally Known As the Group Formally Known As Bob Minus One Plus One Equals Zero," or simply, "The Group Formally Known as Bob."
The five overall winning team members each won trophies and $500 scholarships.
The highest scoring team from each county will represent their county at the state competition, April 6 and 7 at Hillsborough River State Park.
"I can't believe it!" exclaimed the team's teacher and adviser Kim Adams. "You guys are so awesome."
Adams said Pasco High School has been the county champion four years in a row and this team has won twice.
"It's kind of cool that we won two years," said team member Tiffany Newsome.
The team lost one member last year by graduation, but Katie Cotter stepped in and, even though she was afraid she would be a jinx, did just fine.
"Katie's an awesome addition," team member Amy Price said.
Tiffany, Amy and Katie were joined on the team by Jennifer Sharpe and Janae Corrado.
"The Group Formally Known As Bob" was the top scoring team in the forestry and wildlife divisions. Hudson High School's "La Resistance" earned the highest score in water resources.
The competition was set up as five stations and the students circulated among them, staying 30 minutes at each one. They answered questions that often required hands-on skills such as water quality measurements or organism identification.
There was a lot of confidence in the air as the testing started and progressed.
"Our group is, like, really good," said James Hendry, a "Beaver" from Pasco High.
"We're No. 1," said Patrick Jones, a member of "Fresh Fish" from Wildwood High School in Sumter County.
"Gulf High's smart. We know our science," said Lara Winter, a member of the "Raccoon" team from Gulf.
"I think we impressed the forestry guy," said Jeremy Brunsink, a member of "The Mighty Loofas" from the Academy of Environmental Science, Crystal River. "We used the stump for a table."
When "El Nino" from Citrus County handed in their answer sheet to forester Erin Albury, they assured him they had done very well. "So we can use this one for the key, you're telling me," Albury said.
Not every team felt as confident. Pasco High School's "ECO Pioneer" Aaron Beaudoin's answer when asked if his team would win was, "Ah . . . no." But teammate Whitney Ward said that was okay. "We're here to have a good time," she said.
As the competition progressed, the teams began to realize their weaknesses. Springstead's "Exotic Survivors" admitted having trouble with the questions involving hardwood hammocks.
Wildwood High's "Fresh Fish" struggled with the measurement of the Gross Florida Buck Registry score of a set of deer antlers. "We never go huntin'," explained team member Jessica Kern. And while they were in soils, at least one question required the toss of a coin.
The "Nachocheese Koalas" from Hudson High in Pasco also had concerns about the soils station. "It had to do with all kinds of different sand and different countries," said Ben Jones. "It was tough."
One team, though, Hudson High's "Coolness," had at least one member who was comfortable with soils. "I like dirt," Colin Taylor said. "Topsoil rules."
Citrus High "Team 1-A" member Brian Smith saw the competition as a learning experience.
"Even though we didn't study as much as we should have, reading the questions, we learned new material and more about what we can expect in future years," Brian said.
The tests were written and provided by agencies/individuals concerned with the various categories: Water Resources from Southwest Florida Water Management District, forestry from the Florida Division of Forestry, wildlife from Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, aquatics from Hernando County Planning Department and soils from U.S. Department of Agriculture soil scientist Paul Pilny.
Annemarie Gueli, an environmental biologist with Pasco County Utilities who was manning the soils station, enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm around her.
"This is really exciting, to watch the kids and see their faces," she said. The groups usually assign one student to specialize in each category, "so, even though they work as a team, each person has a chance to shine," Gueli said.
After the competition and before the awards ceremony, the students were treated to lunch provided by the Friends of Fort Cooper. "We appreciated the conduct of the children," said Friends' president Tom Cunliffe. "They were very nice, very pleasant."
The Envirothon was sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, which provided $2,500 for the five scholarships; Southwest Florida Water Management District, Florida Power, Coastal Engineering Associates, Inc., Coastal Trophy & Sign of Crystal River, Florida Engineering Society-Nature Coast Chapter, Hernando County Audubon and Countryside Engineering.
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