Spring Natural Resource Events for Youths

Envirothon, Land Judging and ScienceFest

image of contestants examining soil
Contestants examining soil in the 2009 National Land and Range Judging Contest.

Springtime brings many conservation, environment and natural resource-related events to Oklahoma. In addition to the number of outdoor classrooms, natural resource days and fishing clinics sponsored by local conservation districts, there are some national and state-level events taking place as well.


Envirothon team members competed in the 2009 Oklahoma Envirothon held at Beavers Bend State Park on April 6-8. The Oklahoma Envirothon is part of a national program for high school students designed to educate and challenge young people in the environmental sciences. The competition is designed to educate and challenge young people in areas of environmental sciences such as forestry, wildlife management, water quality, and soil erosion. Combining in-class curriculum with hands-on field experiences, Envirothon demonstrates the role people have in important environmental issues.

Oklahoma’s conservation districts support the Oklahoma Envirothon by sponsoring teams and by providing volunteers to act as Walking Leaders and assist with other duties as needed at the contest.

image of Becky Inmon
Becky Inmon, Oklahoma County Conservation District secretary (left), facilitates the exhibits as three students and one adult examine the living organisms in the soil containers.

Winners from the Oklahoma competition will go on to compete nationally in the Canon Envirothon to be held Aug. 2-8, 2009, at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, NC. The first National Envirothon competition was held in 1998. The first state competition in Oklahoma took place in 1999. A team from Edmond Memorial High School won the honor of representing the state at the Canon Envirothon in northern California that year.

image of Don Bartolina engaing with students
Don Bartolina, Oklahoma County Conservation District manager (seated), points out living organisms in the soil containers to Mike Thralls, OCC executive director (standing, in white shirt), and J.D. Strong, Sec. of Environment (standing behind Thralls), as students examine the exhibits in the foreground and background. Karla Beatty, OCC education coordinator (seated at table, top right) facilitates for students as well.

In this year’s state competition a team from Lawton, sponsored by Comanche County Conservation District, won for the third year in a row. The team’s coach, Rick McElhaney, Ag Science teacher at Lawton Eisenhower High School, was Outstanding Conservation Educator for 2008 for Congressional District IV in the Outstanding Conservation Educator awards program sponsored by Chesapeake Energy and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. A team from Edmond North High School won the “Special Topic” portion of the contest. Their team adviser is Gloria Vass, who was named Outstanding Conservation Educator for 2009 for Congressional District V. Oklahoma County Conservation District sponsored the team to attend the competition and presented each member with certificates in recognition of their participation in the event.

The National Land and Range Judging Contest

During the first week of May, every year since 1952, teenagers from all over the nation come to Oklahoma City to compete in the National Land and Range Judging Contest. One-hundred and sixty teams of teenage FFA and 4-H members competed in the 58th annual National Land and Range Judging Contest, held May 5-7, 2009. The 4-H and FFA participating teams qualified for the national event by placing among the top five teams at contests held in their home states.

The teams match skills in judging the adaptability of land for various purposes including farming, range management, and homesite construction. The contestants take turns examining the soil in pits and trenches dug especially for the contest. The skills the teens put to work at the contest involve principles that can be valuable in career fields like environmental and agricultural management, natural resource conservation, home building and construction.

The actual contest site remains a secret until contest day, so no one has an unfair advantage. Contestants and coaches gather on contest morning to find out the official contest location. They then travel to the site, with a police escort, in a caravan of over 100 cars spanning several miles. Each year a different farm, ranch, company or some other organization or agency hosts the contest site on its land near the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. The Fort Reno Agricultural Research Station, U.S Department of Agriculture, hosted the 2009 event on its grounds near El Reno. The outdoor contest proceeded despite rainstorms blanketing most of the state early in the week. The contestants, who had competed in their own states and traveled to Oklahoma for the national competition, persevered despite wet and foggy weather.

The event ends in the evening following the contest earlier in the day, with an awards banquet in the Great Hall of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. The day’s freshly-tabulated results are announced and awards presented. Championship trophies are awarded to team and individual winners in each category of competition including land judging, range judging, and homesite evaluation for both FFA and 4-H competitions.

Sponsors of the contest include the Oklahoma Farm Credit, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, Sirloin Club of Oklahoma, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, American Farmers and Ranchers, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.


Over 5,000 fourth- and fifth-grade students attended the annual ScienceFest held at the Oklahoma City Zoo on April 23. Oklahoma County Conservation District staff Don Bartolina and Becky Inmon partnered with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and Karla Beatty, OCC education coordinator, with an exhibit for the event. The exhibit, “Dig In? Discover a World Beneath Your Feet,” allowed students to dig through compost to search for different types of living organisms such as springtails, nematodes, mites, centipedes, beetles, sowbugs, etc. that live in the soil and help decompose organic matter.

ScienceFest, which began in 2003, is designed to promote scientific diversity. Hands-on activity stations use basic geology, biology, physical science, health and environmental sciences to teach the children how science impacts everyday life. The event provides opportunity for the students to be exposed to science in a fun and different setting. The demonstrations and activities are designed to educate children about protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and using alternative fuels and technologies. Examples of alternative fueled vehicles are also on location for the students to view. The event was attended by school districts from all across the state and included Oklahoma County schools in Oklahoma City, Midwest City-Del City, Edmond and Bethany.

Principal ScienceFest sponsors are OGE Corporation and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Commerce.