Gimli students take part in Envirothon

Team Green from Gimli High School, consisting of Emily Pemkowski, Mia Gray, Melissa Porteous, Samantha Porteous and Sinead Gibbs, attempt to solve a problem during the Winnipeg regional qualifier of the Manitoba Envirothon at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre near Stonewall, Man. on April 18, 2019. (Adam Peleshaty/The Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times)

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Two teams of students from Gimli High School put their eco-knowledge to the test while competing at the Winnipeg regional qualifier of the Manitoba Envirothon at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre on April 18, just four days before Earth Day.

The high school environmental education competition, held by the Manitoba Forestry Association, involves teams working from station-to-station, racing to solve environmentally-related challenges. The event is designed to not only improve teamwork and problem-solving skills, but to also educate students about the natural world. In this year’s qualifier, 13 teams from 10 different schools participated in field tests along the trails of Oak Hammock Marsh and each team also gave a judged oral presentation inside the theatre of the Interpretive Centre.

Gimli was the only rural school to take part in the qualifier with the rest coming from Winnipeg: St. James, Sisler, Shaftesbury, Windsor Park, Maples, Elmwood, Westwood, Murdoch Mackay and Sturgeon Heights.

Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School competed in the Eastern qualifier in Rennie on April 15.

The top two teams from each regional competition will be selected for the provincial Envirothon at Camp Assiniboia in Headingley, taking place from May 23 to 25.

Patricia Pohrebniuk, executive director of the Manitoba Envirothon, told The Interlake Spectator that what the students have learned during the event can be carried over into their day-to-day lives.

“It’s something that they are able to take from the classroom and then apply out onto the working landscape,” she added.

Paula Grieef, resident naturalist at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre, believes the Envirothon can spark environmental responsibility among young people.

“It does a couple of things. It starts the stewardship process for the environment and for nature, and hopefully that will carry through to either careers or just their daily lives,” she said. “It gives an option to athletic competitions and tournaments that is not necessarily every student’s forté.”

For their oral presentations, GHS students delivered research projects on a pair of issues affecting Lake Winnipeg. Team Green, consisting of Emily Pemkowski, Mia Gray, Samantha Porteous, Sinead Gibbs and Melissa Porteous, discussed the current invasion of zebra mussels. Team Blue, which includes Elizabeth Johnston, Sophie Label, Elisee Moore and Brianna Kakepetum, focused on farming pesticides and its effects on the local environment.

GHS teacher Ashley Warcimaga believes it is imperative for students to learn about the environment as they will be witnesses to humanity’s long-term impacts.

“They’re seeing how important it is to keep the preservation of the marshes and our natural wetland ecology here in Manitoba,” she said. “They really identified with their culture and with the ecology in Manitoba of why they need to care and why they need to learn about these things.”

Teams selected for the provincial competition will be identified in early May.