In response to the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020, the Massachusetts Envirothon program replaced its annual large, outdoor, in-person competition, which had been scheduled for May 14th, with an experiment in online team presentations.
“We told teams that this was not intended to be an academic exercise; we were asking them to produce a video that presented a message they felt was important for their communities to hear,” said Will Snyder, of UMass Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program, who developed background materials and guidelines for teams with extensive input from members of the Massachusetts Envirothon Steering Committee and Council.
In place of the usual five-part competition, the Massachusetts Envirothon offered teams a single real-life challenge: teams were invited to submit an online audio-visual presentation in the form of a message to their communities. The presentations were reviewed by more than 30 environmental professionals, who offered comments.
“We provided a review process to provide feedback that would help them sharpen and clarify their presentations if they chose,” said Snyder.
Teams were given several options for developing their presentations:
- Focus on the planned 2020 Current Issue, Sustainable Safe Water Supply, drawing on all the Envirothon natural resource management topics to answer the question: What actions should our communities take now to ensure an ecologically healthy and resilient water supply for the future?
- Widen their focus to look at the ways the world is changing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and think about what that means for their community, and the world.
- Combine these two choices or determine their own focus.
Five teams submitted videos:
- Acton-Boxborough Regional High School
- Brockton High School/Wildlands Trust
- Lexington High School
- Newton North High School
- Quabbin Regional High School
“The full story of this learning experience is told not only in the videos that the teams created, but also in the comments from the reviewers,” said Snyder. A representative sample of review comments are included with each video.
The Massachusetts Envirothon is made possible through the contributions of partnering agencies and organizations, including financial support from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs, the U.S. Forest Service, the Massachusetts Grange, Environmental Business Council of New England, Wegman’s supermarkets and local conservation districts. Fifteen federal and state environmental agencies, conservation districts, non-profit organizations, higher educational institutions, and businesses provide expertise and help organize the event.