Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon Team Green members from left Leah Burgess, Hannah Dube, Lily Fortier, Brenden Veilleux and Natalie Furka try to determine what specimens are Wednesday morning, May 1, at the aquatics station during the Southwest Region Envirothon held at French Falls Park in Jay. The team won the competition and will compete at the state competition later this month. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

JAY — At the Southwestern Regional Envirothon competition held Wednesday, May 1, at French Falls Park in Jay the winning team had the highest scores in four of the five areas tested.

The green team, featuring seniors Leah Burgess and Brenden Veilleux along with juniors Natalie Furka, Hannah Dube, Lily Fortier had a cumulative score of 428.19. It scored 86 in soils, 96 in aquatics, 78.5 in wildlife and 72 in forestry. The team placed second in the current issue category with a score of 93.69.

The black team featuring senior Kasey Burns, junior Violet Bellerose and sophomores Mason Labonte and Sam Geissinger placed second overall with a score of 355.76. Its score of 96.76 was the highest for current issue.

Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon Black team members from left Violet Bellerose, Mason Labonte, Samuel Geissinger and Kasey Burns study skulls Wednesday morning, May 1, at the wildlife station during the Southwest Region Envirothon held at French Falls Park in Jay. The team placed second. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

By earning the top two scores in the regional competition, the green and black teams have been invited to the state competition set for Friday, May 31, at Quarry Road Trails in Waterville.

The Spruce Mountain High School gold team featuring senior Megan Craig with juniors Bluebell Chen, Sarah Hawkins and Loreli Ferrar placed third overall and received a score of 92.69 for its current issue presentation.

The orange team made up of freshmen Erin Chen, Emma Furka, Morgan McDaniel, Madeline Morrell, Alissa Tompkins and Leah Welch placed fourth with a score of 286.33, receiving a current issue score of 81.83.


NCF [National Conservation Foundation]-Envirothon is an international program for high school aged youth which incorporates STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] principles while teaching about aquatics, forestry, soils and wildlife. Each year teams are asked to research an environmental issue, develop a plan to address it and give an oral presentation describing their idea.

The current issue this year focuses on the leasing of prime agricultural land for solar energy production. The gold team researched a new technology that benefits plant growth under solar panels.

Norman Pomerleau and his wife, Honey live nearby and saw the activity at French Falls Park Wednesday, drove down to get more information.

Rob Taylor, an advisor for the Spruce Mountain High School teams took time to explain what Envirothon involves.

“This is so wonderful for the kids,” she enthused. “This is great. They are lucky to have you.”

“It is my favorite extracurricular activity,” Taylor replied.


“These are things kids have to know when they grow up,” Honey added.

Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon advisor Rob Taylor explains the competition Wednesday morning, May 1, to Honey Pomerleau during the Southwest Region Envirothon held at French Falls Park in Jay. Honey and her husband Norman live nearby, wanted to know what was happening. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Maine Association of Conservation Districts and county soil and water districts each year host four regional Envirothons and the state competition. Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District organized the Southwestern Regional this year, which was held in Jay through assistance from the town and Androscoggin Land Trust.

“Envirothon is a really great environmental science competition,” Aimee Dorval, executive director for the trust said. “Androscoggin Land Trust is thrilled to host at our French Falls recreation area. It is great to see all these youth here today continuing to learn about all aspects of the environment. It’s really nice to see science teacher Rob Taylor has built a strong legacy with the Spruce Mountain teams.”

Violet Bellerose asks Samuel Geissinger about the composition of soil found in a soil pit Wednesday morning, May 1, during the Southwest Region Envirothon held at French Falls Park in Jay. The two are members of the Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon Black team. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Dorval is a 1996 national Envirothon champion from Connecticut. She was also a state champion from that state in the late 1990s. “That has come full circle,” she stated. “I always believed in the program which was national and now is international.”

She has 30 years experience with Envirothon. One of the volunteers at the aquatics station was Dorval’s student when she was an advisor for a team years ago, she noted.

Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon Gold team members from left Lorellei Ferrar, Megan Craig, Bluebelle Chen and Sarah Hawkins show the posters they used during their current issue presentation Wednesday morning, May 1, at the Southwest Region Envirothon held at French Falls Park in Jay. The team placed third. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

More than 20 state resource professionals, retired professionals, district staff from Franklin, Oxford and York counties, former Envirothon participants along with others associated with the hosting organizations helped on Wednesday. They served as judges for presentations, scored the tests for one of the stations, kept track of time, were available to answer questions or bring team results to the score keepers.


Owen Schwab, a student at University of Maine was on the Spruce team representing Maine at the international competition last year. When asked about volunteering this year he said he learned his schedule was such that he could.

“I am back at the right time,” he said. “I loved Envirothon, just wanted to come back and help because it is fun.”

Schwab had seen prior members of FIRST Robotics Competition come back to help current teams. “I had that idea from robotics that I can come back,” he added.

Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon Orange team members from left Morgan McDaniel, Leah Welch, Alissa Tompkins, Emma Furka and Maddy Morrell give their oral presentation for the current issue Wednesday morning, May 1, at French Falls Park in Jay. The team placed fourth. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Debbie Breton of Jay used an air horn to signal when teams should move to another station. She said her son Jeremy was in Envirothon when he was in school.

“These kids have worked so hard,” Taylor said. “I was really impressed with the kids’ current issue presentations. To have three teams score in the 90s is really impressive and it shows the time and energy that the kids put into those projects. They really showed that they understand the issues around solar energy and its impact on agriculture.

“They also really understood LD1881, a new Maine law governing the use of solar on farmland and the Maine climate change plan called “Maine won’t wait,”” Taylor added.

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