WESTMINSTER -- Rumors that Carrie Siegman and her classmates outscored other teams to win the county's first-ever Envirothon Competition came during an environmentally correct lunch (no Styrofoam or throwaway plates and utensils) at the Hashawha Environmental Appreciation Center.
The six-member green team from North Carroll High School garnered 400.25 points (out of a possible 500), answering correctly more questions about soils, wetlands, wildlife, aquatics and forestry than rival teams from the county's other four high schools.
Carrie, a junior from Hampstead, had already predicted that the green team had done "really well." She got the news of the win while enjoying a lunch of sloppy joes, chips and green beans with members of North Carroll's green and gold teams in Hashawha's lodge.
As the first-place winner, the green team will advance to a state Envirothon competition this month at St. Mary's City. The state winner then moves forward to a national contest.
Francis Scott Key's green team placed second with 341.5 points, and North Carroll's gold team won third with 335.5 points.
Sixty students from the county's high schools participated in the event Wednesday, sponsored by the Carroll Soil Conservation District and organized by a committee of county and state agencies.
Two teams of six students from each school were tested on their knowledge of the five areas. Students, for example, worked in a stream to identify fish and insects at an aquatics station.
Carrie said a wetlands station, in which students walked through a wetlands to identify plants and soils, proved the most difficult for the green team.
"It was the most challenging," Carrie said. "We had to identify certain species of plants and soil. It was tough."
Most teams did well in forestry, scoring in the 80s and 90s out of a possible 100 points by identifying animal skulls and wildlife-management techniques.
Team advisers said many students study forestry in the science and agricultural curriculum, as well as in 4-H clubs and hunter safety courses.
For Marilyn L. Mause, a state wildlife biologist for Carroll, Baltimore and Harford counties, the scores in wildlife were particularly satisfying.
Her office has given presentations on wildlife at the schools, helping to prepare students for the Envirothon.
"We've had a real push to go out and work them as much as possible," she said. "I think it's paid off. I hope the students get an appreciation for what's going on in the environment."
Soils proved the biggest hurdle for most teams. Many scored low. Teachers and students said they were not well versed in soils, even though they had reviewed textbooks and other materials for the event.
In that category, students dug a soil pit and surveyed the surrounding land area to answer questions such as: at what position on the landscape is the soil located; what is the slope of the land; is the site suited for cropland; are conservation practices needed to control erosion.
Brad Yohe, Carroll's supervisor of science, said the students were "really enthusiastic" about the Envirothon, an event meant to be challenging and an inspiration for environmental enthusiasm.
Students such as Geoff Little, a North Carroll junior and a member of the winning green team, volunteered to participate in the Envirothon to learn more about the environment. Geoff hopes to become an environmental engineer.