Gatton students advance to national competition

A group of Gatton Academy students recently won the state Envirothon competition, advancing to nationals. Participating students were from left to right: Veronica Johnson, Caleb Stickney, Keeley Ruskowski, Aaron Kirtland and Olivia Bickett. Photo provided by Zach Ryle/Gatton Academy

Rebekah Alvey

The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science team recently won the state Envirothon competition and is now advancing to the national competition.

This Gatton Envirothon team has been available to students for five years and this is the first year the team has advanced to nationals. The team is sponsored and coached by Warren County Conservation District.

Envirothon trains students in different environment and conservation matters such as forestry, aquatics and soils. This years theme was soil and water conservation stewardship.

“Matters of the Earth are important to our students,” Derick Strode, assistant director of academic services at Gatton, said. 

The team started meeting in Sept. and met once a week to prepare for the regional, state and now national competition. Owensboro senior Olivia Bickett, who was on the team for the first time, said the team would spend a couple hours going over different sections each practice. 

Some of these sections included learning about bird calls and insects. Bickett said the aquatic portion of the competition was especially interesting and relevant because she is interested in a career in marine science. 

Hardinsburg senior Keeley Ruskowski said the sections are teaching how to use the land best along with learning facts and how to identify factors of the land. Ruskowski said many Gatton students are familiar with competitions like Envirothon with memorization and learning, but this provides a unique hands on aspect. 

The competition consists of a series of field tests. To prepare for these tests, the team was hosted by community members that owned farms similar to the competition environment.

Strode said this was a great example of community support towards Gatton and volunteerism. One of the supporters is a previous biology teacher at Bowling Green High School. 

“They are teaching students but are not the teachers we traditionally think of,” Strode said.

The team was sponsored and coached by Warren County Conservation District employee Penny Warwick. Strode said working with Warwick and other local environment and conservation groups was beneficial to students because of the real world connections it created.

Ruskowski said being on the team helped students reach out to community members they don’t normally encounter. She said the guests who got involved with team became very invested.

“They are doing it because it’s their passion and they want to share it with us,” Ruskowski said.

Ruskowski said she has an internship in place over the summer at Mammoth Cave which was set up through a community member that assisted the team.

Bickett said it is important for students to stay involved with activities outside of class in order to expand on their personal interests.

The national competition will be hosted in Maryland July 23-29. Bickett said the team is preparing individually over the summer and will meet at a farm for a couple weeks before the competition.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].