WHOMPING WILLOWS: First-place finishers (from left) Jenna Smith, Emily Waters, Savannah Bunn, Cassidy Ploch and Hope Robinson competed in the Coastal Envirothon. They will compete this weekend in the state-level Envirothon. (MONA MOORE | DAILY NEWS)

WHOMPING WILLOWS: First-place finishers (from left) Jenna Smith, Emily Waters, Savannah Bunn, Cassidy Ploch and Hope Robinson competed in the Coastal Envirothon. They will compete this weekend in the state-level Envirothon.

Archived Story

Willows whomp competition: NHS Envirothon team takes first place in region

Published 10:34pm Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Whomping Willows from Northside High School took first place in the high-school division of the Coastal Envirothon held at Weyerhaeuser’s Cool Springs Environmental Education Center in Craven County.
Envirothon is the most widely recognized hands-on environmental education program in the nation, according to Weyerhaeuser. Middle-school and high-school students immerse themselves in a yearlong learning process that combines in-class curriculum with hands-on field experiences facilitated by resource professionals such as soil scientists, foresters and wildlife specialists. This intense training culminates in an outdoor competition where teams are tested in five subject areas: soils/land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife and a current environmental issue.
“Each of us concentrates in different areas, but get to take the test together,” said Northside junior Cassidy Ploch, a Whomping Willow.
Scores determine winning placements.
No one was more surprised to hear the team had taken first place than team members Jenna Smith, Emily Waters, Savannah Bunn, Hope Robinson and Ploch.
“We did not think we were gonna get it,” said Waters, a senior.
Ploch recalled their reactions at the awards ceremony.
“When they said the second- and third-place winners, I looked at Hope, and we just shook our heads,” said Ploch.
Bunn said the competition was tough.
“Some schools are bigger than you. It’s not divided into 1A and 2A,” said the sophomore.
All of the Whomping Willows competed in the Envirothon before, but this was the first time all of their hard work resulted in first place and the first year they competed on the same team.
Smith started competing while at Northeast Elementary School. From the start, she specialized in aquatic ecology. Her knowledge on the subject continues to grow.
“We have a notebook with all the information, and the information doesn’t change,” she said.
As the top team in the high-school category, the Whomping Willows received an expenses-paid trip to this weekend’s state-level event and a trophy to bring back to NHS.
The North Carolina Envirothon added another round to the competition. The team had to solve a problem and give an oral presentation Friday.
“We only have an hour to prepare when they give us the problem,” Robinson said before the team left Northside.
More than 200 middle- and high-school students competed in five-member teams at the event, vying for trophies, prizes and bragging rights. Beaufort County sent several teams to the event and returned with lots to brag about.
The top 14 teams (seven high schools and seven middle schools) from each area, advanced to the state-level North Carolina Envirothon, which wraps up today at Cedarock Park in Alamance County. In that elite group are the Whomping Willows from Northside High School and Got Nature? from Washington High School.
Northeast Elementary School’s Freaks of Nature placed second with 400 points, missing first place by four points at the Coastal Envirothon. Northeast Elementary School sent three teams to that competition.
Chocowinity Middle School’s Chaotic Cataclysmic Chinchillas was right on the tail of the Freaks of Nature, coming in third place with 388 points.
Three teams from Chocowinity Middle School participated in the event. A second team, Trees Gone Wild, also moved on to the state competition.
“Pungo Christian Academy had a ‘rookie’ middle-school team this year who
didn’t place in the top seven but came to compete and did pretty well for its first time,” said Becky McRoy, education coordinator for the Beaufort Soil and Water Conservation District.
Locally, the Envirothon competition is coordinated by soil-and-water conservation districts and sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
“Envirothon students often become serious stewards of our natural resources and advocates for a healthy planet,” said John Peeler, North Carolina’s Envirothon committee chairman. “What bigger legacy can we leave?”
For more information on how to participate in local, regional and state Envirothons, visit www.ncenvirothon.org or call 946-4989.

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