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Young environmentalists heading to North Carolina for international competition

Tantramar High’s winning team includes, back, l-r, Joe Caswell, Casey Murray, and front row, l-r, Isaac Ayer, Oliver Priemer, and Isaiah Ayer.
Tantramar High’s winning team includes, back, l-r, Joe Caswell and Casey Murray, front row, l-r, Isaac Ayer, Oliver Priemer, and Isaiah Ayer. - Contributed

Tantramar High team takes first place in New Brunswick Envirothon

SACKVILLE, N.B. —

A group of Tantramar High students are heading to Raleigh, North Carolina this summer after earning a spot in the international Envirothon with a first-place win in the recent provincial competition.

“I think we’re all pretty pleased,” said Joe Caswell, one of the members of Tantramar’s winning team. “We couldn’t have done any better really.”

Joseph Caswell, left, and Isaac Ayer conduct one of several field tests during this year’s Envirothon.
Joseph Caswell, left, and Isaac Ayer conduct one of several field tests during this year’s Envirothon.

The Tantramarsh Rats, as they called themselves, competed against 15 other teams from across New Brunswick and PEI and took top honours in four of the five categories – forestry, wildlife, aquatics and oral presentation – and first place overall. They also nabbed third place in the fifth category, soils and land use, during the event in Saint John May 5-6.

It was the first year that Tantramar had competed at Envirothon NB since the school sent a team back in 2012.

The team consisted of three Grade 12 students – Caswell, Casey Murray and Isaac Ayer – and two Grade 10 students Oliver Priemer and Isaiah Ayer.

All five up-and-coming environmentalists said they thought the competition would be a great opportunity to hang out with some great friends and have a few laughs while also learning more about issues they are passionate about.

“It was the group of people who made me want to join and do this,” said Priemer.

Envirothon is a weekend-long high school environmental competition that tests the students’ skills on a variety of ecological issues. The competition focuses on a new environmental issue each year and the theme this year focused on the importance of moving toward sustainable farming systems to conserve resources, mitigate climate change and increase food production.

To prepare, the students and their advisor have been attending monthly workshops and field trips since November, mentored through the program by teachers and specialists in different fields.

They also have been getting ready for their oral presentation component of the competition, where they focused on a scenario where they had to take over a poorly-managed farm and make it profitable and productive again. With a budget of only $50,000, the team had to find a way to revive the compacted pastureland, dying forest land, algae-filled pond and low-producing crops, making it run more efficiently and sustainably.

“It forced you to look at all the different perspectives and all the different angles,” said Isaac Ayer.

The Tantramar team might have had a bit of an advantage in this aspect of the competition, however, as the Ayer brothers have plenty of farming experience being raised on a dairy, beef and sheep farm.

“We had a lot of background knowledge that we could apply to the problems we were facing,” said Isaac.

Caswell said although he doesn’t have the farming experience some of his teammates have, he learned a lot through the competition about taking better care of the earth’s resources. He said the environment is an issue he’s passionate about because “if we don’t start getting our act together, then by the time we’re older it might be too late.”

“It really helped me think more about my own decisions, to think more about the environment and the state we’re in,” said Caswell.

Matt Wheaton, the team’s advisor, said after a successful competition at the New Brunswick event, the students will now be heading to the US to represent the school, the province and the country at the North Carolina Envirothon from July 28-Aug. 2.

“The team has great chemistry and knowledge in their field and will do their best while having a lot of fun in the process,” he said.

To get there, however, they will need to raise funds for travel costs and some of the accommodation costs. Envirothon NB does pay the registration for the team but the students estimate they still need to raise about $5,000. They have already held a pancake breakfast and a raffle draw and hope to organize more fundraisers in the weeks ahead. The team is also looking for corporate and individual sponsors.

“None of us have been there before so I think it’s going to be such a great learning experience,” said Isaiah.

Check out the TRHS North Carolina Envirothon Trip Facebook page for more information or to make a donation.

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