Long Time Coming

After more than two decades of participation, Panama Central School has finally achieved champion status in Chautauqua County’s annual Envirothon.

Panama’s winning team, comprised of seven high school students ranging from ninth through 12th grade, achieved their victory during the 24th annual county Envirothon event held April 24 at Roger Tory Peterson Institute.

The event hosted a total of 27 participating teams representing 14 Chautauqua County school districts. The teams spent the day answering ecological based questions focused around the core areas of wildlife, forestry, soils, aquatics and current issues. Participants use problem-solving techniques, teamwork skills, critical thinking and hands-on learning as they undergo tests on each core area and rotate to each station.

A total of 14 Panama students competed in two separate teams under the guidance of Panama High School science teachers Dan Bowman and Mitzi McCarty. According to Bowman – who teaches science for fifth, sixth and ninth grade – Panama Central Team I pulled off a statistically unlikely victory.

“This is the first time we’ve come in first,” Bowman said. “It’s kind of unique because we don’t even offer an environmental science course in our school like most of the other schools do. So it was kind of an upset.”

It was also a memorable occasion for Bowman, who will be retiring at the end of the school year.

“It was nice to finally get a win after 22 years; it was a real pleasant thing,” Bowman said of his final Envirothon. “Over the years, I’ve always felt that, win or lose, Envirothon is one of the best things we did at the high school level. It’s way beyond all the Common Core; and it’s something really beneficial for kids and something they get a lot out of. I’m really glad it continues to go on each year.”

Placing behind Panama Central Team I, earning second place, was Hewes Center Team II, followed by Chautauqua Lake Team II in third.

Bowman said the Panama team is now preparing to compete against high schools from all over the state in the New York State Envirothon, which will be held at SUNY Morrisville on May 21 and 22. The Panama team – which consists of Ben Taylor, Naomi Kenny, Hunter Franklin, Taylor Young, Kaci Sikora, Sarah Osborne and Allison Strickland – will represent all of Chautauqua County for the event.

The North American Envirothon held its first competition in the spring of 1979. New York held its first Envirothon in 1990, and will be celebrating its 25th anniversary next year.

For more information about the statewide program, visit the NYS Envirothon website at nysenvirothon.net or the North American Envirothon website at envirothon.org.