Crabs, Conservation, and Competition on the Chesapeake Bay


Lia Clark, Editor

A Thrilling Saga by Lia Clark


For our avid readers of last year’s school paper, you may recall reading about the 2017 Vermont Envirothon State Champs…

Once upon a time, over the summer, in the last week of July, five students and their coach, Susan Steiner, journeyed to Mt. St. Mary’s College in Maryland to compete in the North American Envirothon competition. For one week, the competitors faced many challenges that tested their knowledge of soils, aquatics, forestry, wildlife, and agricultural soil and water conservation in order to determine the champion team. Fifty-four States and Provinces attended, including two teams from China, meeting for an exciting and final face-off.

BFUHS students Lia Clark, Skylar Swan, and Ethan and Olivia Lauricella, lead by their fearless captain Ira Richardson, left the high school at 6am on July 23 to meet a mid-morning flight from Hartford Connecticut. After safely completing their journey, they met other Envirothon teams and boarded a bus that would bring them to their fate. Unfortunately, the bus broke down, and the students faced sweltering hours aboard a crowded and stuffy bus in stifling, ninety degree, humid weather. After the driver sent out a plea for rescue, members of the BFUHS envirothon team assisted in transferring luggage between two coach buses on the side of an interstate, poison ivy behind them, racing cars in front. With their first obstacle passed, the team finally made it to Mt. St. Mary’s College where they attended a well-received welcome feast and an interesting choice of opening ceremony entertainment.

Later that evening, the courageous group gathered in the center of campus to meet their competitors in a trading session. Armed with boxes of Vermont Envirothon shirts, trading items received in decades past, one hundred small maple syrup bottles, and 3 big maple syrup bottles (courtesy of the Vermont Country Store) the team set up a spot, spread out their goods, and waited for the offers to role in… and boy did they! Not only was the maple syrup a hot commodity, the VT t-shirts were traded before the team could say envirothon. With three men manning the station, two brave soldiers set out in the darkening evening, with flashlight keychains they had traded for earlier. Skilled in bartering abilities, Lia Clark managed to trade for an arm load of Chinese items from the Chinese teams. Back at the camp, Olivia Lauricella wrangled a trade of ONE large maple syrup bottle for ALL of the West Virginia team’s possessions. Including those highlights, the team had a successful night and each brought home an armload of goodies, and shipped tightly packed boxes back to Vermont for future years. 

Once given permission to return to their dorms, the tired students met up and studied into the wee hours of the night – after, of course, they had thoroughly examined their bulging gift bags presented to them upon arrival at the competition.

The next morning the team rose with the sun, a few members even dared to go out for an early morning run in the strange land known as Maryland. Captain Ira accompanied coach Steiner to the morning announcements while the remaining team members feasted on a large breakfast in the cafeteria. After breakfast, the team regrouped to pack for the day, and said a teary goodbye to their leader before they were shipped off to a training site on a beautiful farm. When they arrived, the team was separated as each attended three out of the five training sections – aquatics, soils, forestry, wildlife, and the fifth issue. Forced to spend hours in the steaming and sickening sun, not to mention having to eat lunch alone among strangers, the team was glad to return to campus, hot, damp, but bursting with knowledge. After a well deserved dinner, the team met, under strict supervision, with their advisor to share with each other what they had learned that day, and study the new material before handing in their notebooks. When they were dismissed for the night, they went back to their dorms for a quiet night in.

A few hours later, the team awoke and, while mumbling random information, met for a hurried breakfast before heading off the to the testing site. Hearts blazing, the group measured the slope of the land, identified trees by their leafs, calculated the nitrate levels of a nearby stream, identified foreign animals by their pelts, and more. It was a long and hard day as the team was rushed from section to section, facing deadly winds and immobilizing heat, but they made it to the end, and they didn’t feel half bad about how they had done. Tired from the day’s excursion, the team opted not to attend the fun presentation containing wild animals, and instead rested their heads for the first time all week. Many journeyed forth from their rooms and visited the common room, speaking with their enemies to uncover their strategies. Later that evening, they were awoken from their slumber to the sound of joyous voices ringing out in the night. People were singing in the grounds below their rooms, and so they opened their windows wide and joined in the chorus of relieved voices.

The following morning the team joined the last fifth of the alphabet aboard a bus, and journeyed from Mt. St. Mary’s to the great Washington D.C! After pausing at the Lincoln Memorial to take a photo of all North American competitors, the team headed over to the Aerospace Museum, then walked to a strip of food carts for lunch. With their hunger satisfied, they spent the remainder of their day at the Natural History Museum – where they saw a Megalodon Jaw! – before being shipped to Sandy Point State Park for a traditional Maryland Blue Crab Feast. Cracking their crabs open with the provided mallets, the team feasted on buckets of food, and jumped into the lake for a swim, or wandered the park aimlessly, enjoying the rare free time.

The following day, Thursday, was the day the team had been dreading, the day they would be preparing for orals. Up bright and early, all competitors visited two farms where they learned about conservation and cost-effective practices for running apple orchards and about the habitats and handling practices for bees. Immediately shocked at this surprising development, the team’s eyes widened, they had not been expecting this. However, they were not alone, as their worries were confirmed by the anxious whispering of fellow competitors. After a quiet lunch back on campus, the team was met by their “Team Buddy” who took them to their… preparation room. Locked behind doors for seven hours, the team spent every ounce of energy concentrating on forming a twenty minute oral presentation that would be accompanied by beautifully crafted posters. Expected to have their presentation mostly memorized, the team spent the last hour of the given time anxiously trying to commit their speeches to memory. They were allowed a brief pause for dinner, where their “Team Buddy” told them amazing tales of the land called Idaho – where the 2018 North American envirothon competition would be held – she even asked the team for their advice on activities for next year! After their time was up, the team returned to their dormitories to spend the rest of the night contemplating their presentation.

Friday began like any other, the team awoke and went to breakfast. After breakfast, however, they had an hour or so to wait until it was their turn to present. Dressed to the nines and mumbling their presentation together, they walked down to the doors of the academic center, eyeing the clock that would bring them to their fate. Finally, they were called in to do one last practice presentation before they entered the presentation room. Despite their nerves and overall inexperience, the team gave their presentation with little mishap and successfully answered the questions asked of them at the end. Pleased with their performance, Coach Steiner congratulated the team on their way out, and sent them off to lunch and then their rooms to finally breath.

Later that evening, the top three teams from the entire competition were given the opportunity to represent their presentations in front of the entire North American Envirothon staff, competitors, and coaches before their places were determined. The BF students were a little disappointed not to be in the top three, but they all let out a sigh of relief that their work was finally over. After a hurried dinner, the crowd gathered back in the auditorium to hear the results of the evening. New Mexico placed third, New York second, and Pennsylvania – as expected – came in first place. The Vermont team…came in 17th place out of 54! Once free from the ceremony, the team returned to their dorms, then ran through the sheet-like rain to the gym across campus to attend a dance. As individuals of intellect, the Vermonters quickly left and returned to their rooms for a more appropriate evening of packing and sharing food with their hallmates.

The next morning, July 29, they rose before the sun for a quick to-go breakfast before riding to an airport that would bring them, by a short flight, back into New England. After a few more hours, the team of successful competitors returned exhausted, but pleased, to the high school where they were met by the cheers of parents and friends. The teammates said their goodbyes, and parted ways – tearing up at the thought that their fearless leader Ira was graduating to attend Dartmouth College next Fall – to began studying for next year. The BFUHS envirothon team then lived happily ever after…. until envirothon 2018.


If you found this thrilling saga interesting, please talk to Ms. Steiner in the science department about your options for joining the BFUHS envirothon winning team!


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