Studying ahead with skulls
With Halloween fading in the rearview mirror, we’ve certainly seen our share of skeletons, skulls and bones adorning houses and businesses in the Upper Delaware River region. While these holiday decorations serve to strike fear into our hearts, skeletal artifacts can also provide educational opportunities, particularly when it comes to learning more about local wildlife.
For 32 years, high school students in Pike and Wayne counties have competed in an annual event that deepens their understanding of environmental issues. Over time, the Pike/Wayne Envirothon has established a legacy of future environmental leaders by engaging the interests of students who have gone on to pursue careers in related fields.
This year, students will have access to new tools in the form of reproduction mammal skulls available through the Wayne and Pike County conservation districts, which coordinate the event with the assistance of various partners and financial contributions from many local businesses. The durable and detailed skulls were provided by the Pennsylvania Envirothon, along with a collection of pocket guides focused on Pennsylvania wildlife such as birds, bats and other pollinators.
The competition tests the students’ knowledge and skills related to the earth’s natural resources. Students prepare for the one-day competition by using such field guides, studying soil surveys and identifying underwater organisms to evaluate the health of regional waterways.
Teams apply their knowledge and problem-solving skills on topics such as wildlife, forestry, aquatic ecology, soils and land use as well as a current issue, which changes annually. Across the state, winning teams from each county advance to the Pennsylvania State Envirothon.
Planning is underway now for the 33rd annual matchup in April 2019, which will focus on the theme “Agriculture and the Environment: Knowledge and Technology to Feed the World.” The long-time environmental education program is a win for all involved. Nothing scary about that!