NEWBERRY – Trekking around in humidity so thick you could almost cut it might not be how a lot of people think changing the world begins, but for Danielle Rowe, it’s that and much more.
Rowe, district coordinator for the Newberry Soil & Water Conservation District, was one of six people who chaperoned groups of high school students from station to station at the 20th S.C. Envirothon Competition held May 13 at Sandhill Research and Education Center in Columbia.
The Envirothon experience is a unique approach to environmental education, with activities designed to help the students become environmentally aware, action-oriented adults. Newberry County was represented by a team from Mid-Carolina High School.
The Envirothon gives those who are professionals in the field – like Rowe — a chance to show students that there are career possibilities they might have never considered but it also give them a lot more.
“They are also able to study about things in the environment and gain a new appreciation for their natural resources and wildlife,” Rowe said. “It also gives them an opportunity to fund their career goals through scholarships, if they win.”
As the students travel from station to station, they compete against the teams from other high schools. While it might just seem like an outdoor science fair to some, it is actually a way for the students on the teams to win scholarship money.
While Rowe said she loves being outdoors, she also looks forward to networking with others in her field and building relationships that tie her job in with others that are similar on the state and federal level.
“This job is about networking and having good relationships with partners from all over. This gives me a chance to keep a positive image with our partners,” she said. “For example, DNR helps fund the NSWCD through grants every year so I like to volunteer my time to their program Envirothon as a thank you for giving us those funds.”
Programs like Envirothon also help engage youth and give them a better understanding of how we as humans interact with the environment.
“Envirothon gives kids the ability to research and study about the environment so that they can gain a better understanding of where raw materials come from, how they are preserved, and what it takes to keep them preserved,” Rowe said. “Knowledge is the foundation to making a change for our children’s children. It gives kids an incentive to better care for and preserve their environment and it makes them more aware when they do not recycle or conserve wildlife, native species, etc.”
One of the more important Envirothon take-aways is that it shows participants that their behaviors can make a difference.
“I think Envirothon gives kids a chance to change their behaviors, not their habits, not to do something because Mom and Dad told them to but to change how they think about a situation or about their environment so that they have that desire to do better,” she said. “I heard a phrase at one of my meetings that stuck with me, and I’ve adopted it as my new slogan for KNCB: Be in the business of changing behaviors.”
And it’s those behavior changes that Rowe said are crucial.
“I think this is crucial to the youth of today because the disposal of nonrenewable resources will eventually catch up to our future generations,” she said. “I don’t think we want to be the creators of future problems due to the ignorance or lack of knowledge about a simple concept, such as conservation.”
Mid-Carolina High School is the only Newberry County high school with an Envirothon team, but Rowe said other high schools can get in on the fun just by having a teacher/coach who is willing to help them and at least five students. Registration is $125 and funding can be requested from the Newberry Soil & Water Conservation District.
For more information, contact Rowe at 803-276-1978, extension 101, or visit www.dnr.sc.gov/education/Envirothon/index.html. You can also contact the S.C. Envirothon at 803-734-4602.
Patricia M. Edwards is the publisher of The Newberry Observer and group publisher of The Union Times, The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel, all sister publications of The Newberry Observer.