Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon team members react after finishing their oral presentation at an international competition in Ohio in July. Seen in no order are Leah Burgess, Brenden Veilleux, Dan Wilson, Abrahm Geissinger and Owen Schwab. Submitted photo

JAY — The Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon Team is home after once again competing at an international competition.

The Envirothon Team placed 20th overall at the 2022 National Conservation Foundation (NCF) International Envirothon, which was held July 23-30 at Miami of Ohio University in Oxford, Ohio. Teams are first tested at their state or provincial level on their knowledge and skills in the areas of Aquatic Ecology, Forestry, Soil Science, and Wildlife Management. They also research a Current Issue scenario and develop a plan to resolve that problem, which they present orally.

The 2022 Current Issue was “Waste to Resources” and required students to learn about various types of human-generated waste and how to manage them in an environmentally responsible way. The winning teams from each state or province then had to learn about the unique flora, fauna, soils, water bodies, and forests of Ohio.

In Ohio, teams could earn 700 points overall. For five resource areas 100 points were available with 200 points possible for the oral presentation.

The Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon Team representing Maine finished 20th overall with a score of 486 or 69%. The team was sixth in Aquatic Ecology with a score of 89, 11th in Soil Science with a score of 67, 17th in Wildlife Management with a score of 76, 20th in Forestry with a score of 62, 34th in the Waste to Resources Current Issue test with a score of 56, and 21st in the Current Issue oral presentation with a score of 136.

Spruce Mountain Envirothon Team members are sophomore Leah Burgess, junior Abrahm Geissinger, junior Owen Schwab, sophomore Brenden Veilleux, and junior Dan Wilson. The team is advised by SMHS teachers Ken Baker and Rob Taylor. Ann Schwab attended as the female chaperone.


The team won the Maine Envirothon Championship on June 3rd at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine Outdoor Education Center in Augusta.

For Advisor Rob Taylor, this was the 12th time his team has won the Maine Envirothon and gone on to compete internationally.

“The event in Ohio was extremely competitive and it was great to be back at a live event after doing it remotely last year,” Taylor said. “The competition typically has up to 60 teams competing, but due to complexities from the global pandemic, not all states, provinces, and countries were able to send teams this year. This did not really weaken the playing field much, as the teams that did attend really came to play.

“The level of environmental knowledge and skill I saw during the week from all the teams was amazing, especially when one considers the challenges schools and students have had to deal with for the last two and half years. The students in attendance were world class and knew their stuff.

“I was really pleased with our team. We have two sophomores and three juniors and were among the younger teams at the event. Next year the competition is in Sackville, New Brunswick, and we will be among the closest teams to the event.”

Three team members competed in the virtual NCF Envirothon last summer, Taylor noted. “I think the kids want to build on what they have done the last two years,” he added.


After winning the Maine Envirothon in June the team worked very hard to prepare for the international event. The team was provided over 700 pages of technical information about Ohio’s natural resources in Envirothon’s study areas. The team met at least twice per week for four hour sessions in June and July, as well as spending numerous hours studying on their own.

Team member Leah Burgess made online flashcards using a website called Quizlet to study from and the team met with professional foresters Frank Lopez and Merle Ring and Maine State Forest Biometrician Ken Lausten at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray to learn how to use professional forestry tools and how to identify the trees of Ohio’s biodiverse forests that are not found in Maine.

The team also met online with Alexandria Miller and Michelle Radley of ecomaine to learn more about how waste and landfills are managed in Maine. Members continued to communicate with Miller and Radley into the competition to learn more about waste management.

Former Maine State Representative Tina Riley connected the team with Dan Tartakoff, Legislative Analyst for the Maine State Legislature and Andrew Hackman – Principal Lobbyist for Serlin Haley LPP. The team met online with these two individuals to learn about Maine Law LD 1541, a first in the nation Extended Producer Liability Law that requires producers to finance the stewardship of paper and packaging waste in products sold in Maine.

The team also studied review documents, took practice tests, and studied Quizlets created by advisors Baker and Taylor. Prior to the Maine Envirothon, all five Spruce Mountain Envirothon Teams met with resource professionals Alexandria Miller from ecomaine, Biomass Facility Manager Bruce Proven from ReEnergy in Livermore Falls, and Jay Sewer Department Manager Mark Holt.

Additionally, the team also practiced for the Current Issue problem scenario by working with Baker and Taylor to solve a practice problem scenario developed by the advisors. The team utilized feedback from Spruce Mountain Envirothon Alumnus Jordan Daigle, who is now a Climate Change Specialist with Chevron to enhance their presentation.


The team presented their solution at a public event July 13. They were scored by classmates, parents, community members, and resource professionals who used the actual rubric for the NCF Competition. All of this work was intended to help them prepare for the problem scenario at the NCF Envirothon.

The students were provided training on the scenario on Thursday morning, July 28, at the NCF event and were sequestered six hours – with only the resources provided to teams at the event and what they had previously learned as information for solving the problem. While sequestered they had no access to the internet or communication technology.

“We really had prepared for solving a problem related to the theme Waste to Resources and I think the students had some really innovative ideas to share on the topic from all the preparation we had done,” Baker said. “The students were really thrown a curve ball with the problem scenario they received at the competition. In the scenario, they were asked to design an access road to remote landfill site.

“The problem turned out to be a civil engineering problem, not a waste management scenario problem. They handled it very well and their solution included selecting an ideal route for the road using analysis of soil maps, the use of short term and long term best management practices, and ways to maintain the ecosystem services, aesthetics, and natural resources of the property during and after the road’s construction.”

The team’s public speaking skills really improved, members presented with a great deal of confidence and really enjoyed the experience, Baker noted.

“I got the chance to compete in the virtual NCF Envirothon from Nebraska last summer and the live event in Ohio was so much more fun,” Burgess enthused. “I hope I get the chance to build on this next year.”


“This was a great experience and I am really looking forward to competing next season,” Geissinger stated. “It is in New Brunswick, which will be very similar to Maine, so I hope we get the opportunity to do this again next summer.”

The experience was fun while still having an academic aspect, Veilleux said. “Being able to experience this competition gave our team a lot of knowledge to apply next year,” he added.

“I enjoyed having the chance to bond with students from other states and Canadian Provinces,” Wilson said. “The trade session on Sunday night gave me a chance to experience the cultures of people from other places. We brought Maine items to swap, like maple syrup, Moxie, and Whoopie pies and people liked them.”

Schwab said he doesn’t get to travel much.

“Even when I do, I don’t usually get familiar with the places I go” he noted. “I got an opportunity to learn so much about Ohio. The team also got to swim in Lake Erie and we got to see Niagara Falls.”

The international competition featured state and provincial championship teams from across the United States and Canada. China also had three provincial championship teams qualified to participate, but the teams were unable to attend due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.


Envirothon is sponsored internationally by the National Conservation Foundation and is the world’s largest environmental science competition.

The top ten teams at Ohio were awarded scholarships and the winning team from Lexington High School in Massachusetts took home $15,000 courtesy of Smithfield Foods.

This was the first in person NCF Envirothon in three years, as the competition was canceled in 2020 and was held fully remotely in 2021 due to COVID 19.

“We are really thankful for all the sponsors and people who helped us prepare for the event,” Burgess said. “It was an incredible experience.”

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