Archived Story

Learning outside the classroom

Published 5:51am Monday, February 20, 2012

RED BAY – Cypress Cove Farm was abuzz Thursday with Envirothon students from all over the county who came to take part in an Envirothon training day that will prepare them for upcoming competitions.

Students from Russellville, Red Bay, Phil Campbell, Vina, Belgreen and East Franklin participated in events that covered five different areas: aquatics, wildlife forestry, soils, and a complex issue, which is something specified by the national Envirothon organization that is localized to pertain to issues students in Franklin County would be familiar with.

Sharon Andress, who serves as the conservation program manager with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for Franklin and Colbert counties, said the training day is an important event to get each school’s Envirothon team members ready for country competitions as well as state and even national competitions.

“We have a great group of students who really take Envirothon seriously,” Andress said. “We have had several state winners in the past and they always do a good job of representing our area.”

Danny Williams, the Indian Creek Watershed Coordinator for Madison County who was responsible for bringing the concept of Envirothon to Franklin County, said the purpose of Envirothon is to get students interested in environmental fields in the hopes they will turn that interest into a possible career.

“Some of these students wouldn’t ever know about these fields without Envirothon,” Williams said. “In one of my groups this morning, I asked how many of them lived on a farm or around lots of land and only two raised their hands.

“Just because this is a rural county doesn’t mean these kids understand everything about the environment. Envirothon gives them an awareness and sparks some interest.”

Andress said each school’s Envirothon team has a member that specializes in one of the five categories and the training helps them learn many different aspects of their specialty.

“We’re very lucky because we have professional, experienced people who volunteer their time to come out and teach these kids valuable information,” Andress said.

On Thursday, Damien Simbeck taught the aquatics class; R. J. Moore taught the wildlife class; Jimmy Murphry with Woodland Services taught the forestry class; Milton Tuck, a resource soil specialist, taught the soils class; and Williams taught the class on this year’s complex issue: low impact development, which is knowing how to manage water resources that are onsite in a way that it doesn’t have an adverse affect offsite.

“We couldn’t have his day without these people or without our sponsors,” Andress said. “We’re also very appreciative of Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow for letting us use his land and supporting us and for Superintendent Gary Williams for always supporting what we do.”

She said the NRCS received a grand from the Resource, Conservation and Development Council to fund the event and the Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District sponsored it.

“We’ve been doing this for around 20 years and it’s something we enjoy doing,” Andress said. “We get these kids at an age where they are thinking about their careers and what they want to do.

“We need more students to see how beneficial these careers are and how important it is to give back to the environment because this is all we have.”


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