HOWARD TOWNSHIP — Jeff Gleason was the mastermind behind a Centre County Envirothon team that represented Bald Eagle Area High School on Wednesday.
The high school senior said he grew up participating in similar environmental events and wrangled a team of four others to get involved in the competition this year at Bald Eagle State Park.
In August, Gleason, 18, will attend Penn State to focus on environmental engineering, thanks to Envirothon, which helped mold his career choice, he said.
The team comprised fellow seniors Luke Besong, Emily Quick, Otis Statham and Sam Van Cise, who were eager to be the highest-scoring team.
Envirothon is an environmental competition that promotes goals of environmental education in high school and recognizes students who achieve excellence in environmental and natural resource knowledge.
The Centre County Conservation District sponsors the annual event.
Participants score points by answering questions correctly on topics such as forestry, wildlife, aquatic ecology, soils and land use, and current issues at five stations.
The theme for the 30th annual event was sustainable agriculture/locally grown, said Bob Sweitzer, district manager at the Centre County Conservation District.
Administrators said they hoped this would be a good educational tool that helps students make better environmental decisions.
“What it’s really doing is getting them outdoors instead of behind a computer and giving them hands-on learning they can’t always get in the classroom,” said Jade Thompson, Bald Eagle agriculture teacher and Envirothon adviser.
Thirteen teams of five students represented Bald Eagle, Bellefonte, State College and Penns Valley area school districts.
And the winning team this year was Gleason’s team, called “Road Kills,” which will compete at the state Envirothon on May 20-21 at Susquehanna University.
The team scored 415 of 500 points.
Bald Eagle students have won the last 15 competitions, and 24 of the last 30, Thompson said. He added that his teams meet once a week throughout the year to study and prepare for Envirothon.
Sweitzer said the goal is to keep the event going so kids can continue to have an understanding of their environmental surroundings and make better decisions.
More than 16,000 students annually benefit from materials developed for the Envirothon program, and more than 5,800 high school students representing 67 counties participated last year, Sweitzer said.
The North American Envirothon has been canceled this year, but Sweitzer said it will resume next year in Missouri.
“The goal is to help students become environmentally knowledgeable, skilled, dedicated citizens,” Sweitzer said.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.