Envirothon teammates Ella Plourde at left and Kaila Godbey study cedar branches Sunday evening, April 24, at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay. Five teams from the school will be competing at the Regional Envirothon competition May 19 in Bethel. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

JAY — Spruce Mountain High School has five teams that will compete at the regional Envirothon competition May 19 in Bethel.

“We’re lucky, we have a lot of kids participating,” advisor Rob Taylor said Sunday evening, April 24. “The number of schools, teams participating statewide is down this year.”

Working with Taylor is biology teacher Ken Baker. Technology instructor Kym Bryant helps teams with printing and formatting to create quality products for the current-issue presentations. “She has been a great resource for the program,” Taylor said.

One reason for the greater participation at Spruce may be that kids haven’t had opportunities to participate in other activities because of the pandemic, Taylor noted. The teams have been meeting every Sunday night from 6-8 p.m. but several students were absent due to vacation, other commitments, he added.

Teammates Kasey Burns at left and Morgan Craig touch a deciduous branch held by Envirothon advisor Rob Taylor Sunday evening, April 24, at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay. Students test their knowledge of aquatics, forestry, soils, wildlife and a current-issue topic in the competition open to high school students from the United States, Canada and China. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Envirothon is an environmental and natural-resource conservation competition for high school students in the United States, Canada, and China. Problem-solving, team-building and leadership skills are developed while learning about aquatics, forestry, soils, wildlife and the current issue topic – which changes each year.

The current issue this year is Waste to Resources, which looks at all kinds of waste, how to recycle or repurpose those in meaningful ways, Taylor said.


It is one of the most extensive topics he has seen as the Envirothon advisor. Included are wastewater, food waste, agricultural waste, solid waste, household hazardous waste, he said. “There’s a really long list of waste we produce,” he added.

The state hosting the national competition chooses the current issue each year and Maine’s current issue was adapted from that, Baker said.

Each Spruce team has chosen a different Maine lake or pond to use with its current-issue presentation. The Maine presentation is five minutes compared to a 20-minute presentation at nationals, Taylor said.

Last year Envirothon was held virtually and the year before it was canceled because of COVID-19. Last year there was no current-issue component in Maine.

“Only a few of the seniors have actually done a current-issue [presentation],” Taylor said. “Not all students did [Envirothon] as freshmen. A lot of it is deciding what not to say with only five minutes, present a well developed plan [for managing the water body].”

“We don’t have that resource of the older students,” Baker noted. In previous years the older students were able to share their prior experiences to help students new to the program, he said.


The senior team of Ella Plourde, Kaila Godbey, Quinn Fournier, Liam Brewster and Isaac Parker chose Wilson Lake in Wilton. Plourde and Godbey said they would be working to fix water issues, use composting and recycling in their presentation.

“I like being a part of Envirothon, have participated four years,” Plourde said. “I like working in a group. Envirothon can lead to other options.”

Godbey enjoys the problem-solving scenarios. “You get to show all the work you have done while helping to save the environment, protect it,” she noted.

They both work on soils which they feel is their strongest study area.

“Soils can be really hard, there is a lot of information for aquatics,” Godbey said.

Classes in high school piggy back on things learned in Envirothon which helps, Plourde noted.


Sophomores Megan Craig and Kasey Burns are on the team using Moose Hill Pond in Livermore Falls. Juniors Ava Coates and Sophie Bernard are other teammates.

Soils is Craig’s favorite subject. “I love learning about the different nutrients needed,” she said.

“I like learning everything Envirothon has to teach us,” Burns said.

There is a lot of information, it can get really confusing, Craig said. “Mr. Taylor and Mr. Baker are really good at explaining it, they do a really good job,” she noted.

“Once you get it, it is so very satisfying,” Burns added.

The team of sophomore Brenden Veilleux and freshmen Skylar Condon, Avery Ryder, Mary Lovewell and Bluebell Chen chose Molasses Pond in Eastbrook as their current issue site. Ryder’s family has a camp there.


“I can learn different things, apply them to my life,” Veilleux noted. He enjoys gardening and understanding soil chemistry helps him better understand what isn’t working, what to change to make his garden flourish.

“I like working in a team, sharing ideas,” Condon said.

“I am pretty creative, I like to plan and work on the posters,” Ryder said.

“Coming together as a team will be difficult when we have to start working on the presentation,” Veilleux said. Incorporating everything learned in the presentation could be a challenge, he noted.

Deciding on the presentation, getting it started was a concern for Condon.

“It can be confusing if someone is not here and we have to fill them in on what has been done,” Ryder added.


Parker Pond is the current issue site for the team comprised of sophomores Leah Burgess and Elizabeth Grondin plus juniors Owen Schwab, Daniel Wilson and Abrahm Geissinger. Burgess, Schwab, Wilson and Geissinger were on the team that won the state competition last year. Geissinger was not able to compete at nationals due to a family commitment.

“Envirothon opens your eyes to other opportunities, different career paths,” Burgess noted.

Information obtained through Envirothon is useful in situations even when not thinking about the environment, Schwab said. “The opportunity to problem-solve is always fun,” he added.

“I like the knowledge Envirothon gives me,” Wilson said. “Learning the different elements and their effect on things.”

Geissinger likes the competition between teams.

The most challenging thing for Burgess is the many options for the current issue, which ones to include for the best presentation in the amount of time available.


Schwab noted holding all of the current-issue topics in his head and keeping them organized. Having an in-person Envirothon will be different, but having access to the soil pit and trees could help jog memories, he said.

For Wilson, knowing what he doesn’t know is a challenge.

Geissinger said the current issue changing every year is challenging, since not all materials studied can be used again.

Another challenge for this team is switching from the 20-minute presentation format for nationals last year to the five-minute one allowed at the state competition this year.

Later Taylor said the team consisting of freshmen Cole Richards and Connor Roy, sophomore Alex Grimaldi plus juniors Jenavieve Feith and Mackenzie Michaud are using Long and Round Ponds in Livermore.

Envirothon is managed and directed by National Conservation Foundation with local and state Soil and Water Conservation Districts hosting the competitions. Four regional competitions will be held around the state May 18-23.

Taylor said teams scoring in the top 20% at each regional will be eligible to compete at the state competition June 3 in Augusta.

The national event is July 24-30 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

“We are rebuilding the Envirothon machine at Spruce Mountain,” Taylor said. “It’s exciting.”

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