Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon team members from left Natalie Furka, Lily Fortier, Leah Burgess and Hannah Dube are seen Tuesday evening. July 2, at the school in Jay. The team is preparing for the international competition to be held later this month in New York. Absent at the time was member Brenden Veilleux. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

JAY — While school may be out for the summer for most students, five from Spruce Mountain High School are studying harder than ever and fundraising to compete at an event later this summer.

Graduates Leah Burgess and Brenden Veilleux along with Natalie Furka, Lily Fortier and Hannah Dube – who will be seniors next year – will compete at the National Conservation Foundation International Envirothon Championships from July 28 to Aug. 3 at Hobart William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. The team won the Maine competition in May, earning the right to represent the state and their school internationally.

To prepare for that competition they are learning about the aquatics, forestry, soils and wildlife found in that area of New York while also considering possible scenarios for the current issue project they will given while in New York.

“The Maine competition worked pretty well,” Fortier said Tuesday evening, July 2. “The tests were pretty similar to ones in years past. Personally, I felt we were very prepared for it.”

Other teams struggled with things that hadn’t been seen before, but advisor Rob Taylor had mentioned seal pelts on the drive there, so the team knew what it was, Fortier noted. “You are not generally going to see that,” she added.

“The competition was definitely there this year,” Burgess said. “It wasn’t like past years where you are winning by a 50 point difference.”


Team members are really close friends, are able to communicate, Dube stated. “We are on the same page with a lot of things, are able to get our plan across,” she noted. “We are not going back and forth, not knowing who to agree with.”

Communicating well helped during the year while preparing for competitions, Fortier said. It provided opportunities other teams may not have “because we are all very close outside of our team,” she noted.

“The team has an off/on switch,” Burgess explained. It can become focused, get in competition mode, she added.

Soils was a bit challenging at the Maine competition, Furka said. The team needs to focus more on texture of soil and color in the future, she noted.

The soil pits are different, tests are often copied and pasted, Dube stated. They change a little bit but a lot is the same stuff, she said.

Soils can also be up to interpretation by the person judging, Fortier noted.


“We still have kind of a home field advantage when studying for the four areas [aquatics, forestry, soils and wildlife], will do the same type of study patterns,” Burgess said. “For me, the real difference with the international competition is the current issue project. The fact you have to do it in six hours, it is 20 minutes to speak. It changes things up.”

She said the problem is much narrower compared with ones from Maine events. Preparing three team members who haven’t experienced that “very stringent day” is important, she noted.

“Mr. Taylor has done a good job preparing us, giving us ideas and things we can put into our project,” Fortier said. “Obviously we don’t know what that scenario is going to be until we are in that room. He has given us good information.”

Taylor shared information about the Haudenosaunee Federation, five different nations of indigenous peoples associated with the Seneca Lakes region of New York. They were an agricultural people, learned to adapt to the climate there, he stated. It was a matriarchal society, much of America’s government is based on theirs, he noted. Showing how the current issue solution relates to the history and culture of the area should be considered, he said. “Understanding the past is important,” he added.

“Brenden and I will bring the insight we have had from the past years of competition,” Burgess stated.
“We are excited for us because I know that this team is much more bonded. Brenden and I are excited to be with a new group of open minds and a new set of fresh eyes.”

“One of the things I have noticed about this group is they have really gelled as a team,” Taylor said. “They work together and I think that is one of their strengths. They listen to each other very well.”

The team sold special glasses needed to view the solar eclipse earlier this year to raise money for the trip. A bottle drive may be held prior to the trip. Those wishing to help the team should email rtaylor@rsu73.com or call/text 207-491-1137.

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