PacSci Perspectives

Teen “Stream” Stars Win Another Envirothon!

by | May 4, 2016

Envirothon Team 2016

The Team: Emma Rutkowski (fanny pack), Bellevue High. Mary Childress (also holding trophy), Bellevue High. Joseph Christensen (blue jacket), Bellevue High. Jenna Abbassi (flannel), Bellevue High. Hyun Song (crossed legs), Newport High.

Congratulations to the high school students in our Lake Washington Watershed Internship Program (LWWIP). Our two teams, based at the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center, recently placed first and second in the regional Envirothon Contest. They’ll advance to the state competition in Anatone, WA later this month. Our LWWIP teams have advanced to the state level every year since 2006 after placing first in regional and/or county competitions.

To earn the top spot this year, our science stars underwent rigorous testing of their knowledge of soils, forestry, wildlife and aquatics. This year’s aquatics challenge was a favorite for many team members, including 18-year-old Mary Childress, a senior at Bellevue High.

“Bonus points were offered if your team could find the turbidity of a nearby stream,” Childress said, “and, of course, my team has done this very task every month during stream monitoring. We confidently found the turbidity and it was exciting to be so familiar with a bonus question.”

Envirothon contestants not only relay their knowledge and solve a problem, said Siri Nelson, Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center manager. “They had to present findings and ideas to a committee. They are great scientific communicators with the ability to think critically, speak clearly and get their ideas across in presentations to adults.”

Teaching Little Kids, Restoring Habitat

Founded in 1997, the Lake Washington Watershed Internship Program has graduated more than 260 interns, who each volunteer for up to three years. As they learn about and research the watershed, they perform community service by restoring habitat in Bellevue parks and teaching environmental science to children in local K-5 afterschool programs. “If you can explain the water cycle to a second grader,” Nelson says, “you can explain a complex sustainable agriculture cycle to a group of farmers.”

“LWWIP exposed me to passions I had not been aware of,” Childress says. “I always knew that I loved nature and being outside, but this program allowed me the unique chance to physically put this interest into action. The monthly stream monitoring has probably been my favorite example of this. I gained a sense of self-accomplishment knowing I was helping my community. LWWIP has definitely helped me realize how much I want to make a difference, and that there are realistic outdoor ways to do so!”

Learn more about the Lake Washington Watershed Internship Program and Pacific Science Center’s other programs for teens.