Smith-Cotton High School took eighth place in this year’s 2015 statewide Envirothon competition.
In Envirothon, students from all over Missouri compete in categories including aquatics, soil, wildlife, current events and forestry. Each team is made up of five students plus an alternate. Each student from the team specializes in one subject and is asked to present over that subject. Then the team takes a test over every area and is able to talk with one another to find the solution. After the test, the team is asked to give an oral presentation, including posters and visual elements.
“We always do well in that section,” said Savanna Spilker, who will be a senior next school year. Last school year was Spilker’s first time being a part of the team and she said: “I really enjoyed it because science is something I enjoy doing. It’s a good way to meet new people and be able to challenge myself in the field of science.”
“We didn’t do as well as last year but better than expected,” said Bailey Curry, who also will be a senior. She completed her second year being a part of the Envirothon team.
“I really enjoy it because we get to be outside and see new places,” Curry said.
Spilker and Curry are two of four students who will return to the team next school year.
Smith-Cotton’s two teams are sponsored and coached by Mona McCormack, who teaches environmental science at the high school, and Jennifer Woolery, who was a science teacher at the junior high.
“We’ve taken a team to state or won state every year since 2009,” McCormack said. “I love doing it. It’s one of my favorite things as a teacher. It’s important, and not only do the students learn, I learn so much in the process of teaching them.”
To help train the teams, McCormack and Woolery “tap into a lot of other people,” McCormack said. Volunteers come in to speak to the teams and educate them on certain topics and careers in the environmental science world. Some volunteers who the teams have spoken with this year include a forester from the Missouri Department of Conservation, a state Fisheries and Aquatics agent, and a soil specialist from the Soil and Water Conservation District.
In addition to coaching the Envirothon teams, McCormack also leads S-C’s Environmental Science Club. The club recently performed water quality monitoring on the Pearl River off Sedalia Road. Members cleaned trash out of Brushy Creek behind Starbucks close to the Thompson Hills Shopping Center. They do this as a part of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Discover Nature school grant requirements. The team is responsible for restoring an ecosystem or collecting data on the status of an ecosystem. This grant gives the program money for supplies, provides a book for every student to keep, and pays for field trip opportunities.