An academic competition based on solving environmental problems might be the spelling bee of the 1990s.
County school and environmental leaders say they are close to raising the $2,600 needed to offer about 60 Carroll high school students a chance to compete in a daylong "Envirothon," tentatively scheduled for April 29 at Hashawha Environmental Center.
Students who have taken an elective course on the environment will apply their knowledge to actual problems. Up to two six-student teams from each school will get a chance to solve one problem each in aquatics, forestry, soil, wildlife and wetlands. Each school will decide how to select the student participants.
"Environmental issues are ones that require behavior modification, so the sooner we can get people attuned to them, the better," said James E. Slater Jr., administrator of the Carroll Office of Environmental Services.
"If (students) are used to these concepts as they go through school, when they grow up and enter the work world, they'll be second nature," Slater said.
Educators say the event will allow students to apply what they learn in Carroll's classrooms.
Several other school districts inthe state already have started annual envirothons. Brad Yohe, science supervisor for the Carroll Board of Education, observed one in Washington County.
"People were in holes and up to their knees in streams. That's what the application of science is all about," Yohe said."People think science is a memorization of facts, and you open a book and look at pictures of fish. Really, science is a way of solving problems."
The Carroll Soil Conservation District Board, which administers state soil and water quality programs, had known of envirothons in other parts of the state and country for about three years. Theboard had wanted to sponsor one here but was not sure it could get the money and do the work, said District Manager Charles E. "Ed" Null Jr.
So he was ripe to say yes when Slater and Catherine Rappe, chief of Carroll's Bureau of Water Resource Management, heard about Envirothon and asked the soil agency to sponsor one here.
"When we found out there was so much interest in it, we thought it might be something we could carry out and not have it be such a burden," Null said.
To raise the money, he and other planners have approached local industries, service organizations and hunting and outdoor sports clubs. The money will go toward transportation, food for the students during the daylong event, awards and substitutes for the science teacherswho will be at Hashawha that day.
Staff people from the Soil Conservation District and various state and county agencies will set up aseries of stations at Hashawha. The soil station might be a 5-foot-deep hole, into which students will descend to sample and test, Yohe said.
The winning team goes on to state competition and possibly tothe national finals later this year in St. Mary's City.
Slater said it hasn't been hard to raise the money.
"The simple fact the national championship is in Maryland this year -- we felt it was incumbent on the county to try to get some teams," Slater said.