The Next Generation: Inspiring Environmental Leadership Through Competition

Envirothon 2024 Welcomes Allegheny Youth and Conservation Professionals!

Envirothon season is in full swing! Allegheny County Conservation District is hosting this year's competition with more than 100 students projected to gather at North Park Lodge on Friday, April 26, 2024. The day will consist of team challenges aimed at preparing young conservationists to take on today’s environmental challenges.

As a veteran Envirothon coach boasted, “Envirothon exposes my students to tangible environmental topics and issues that help drive class research, discussion, and instruction.” 

More than 40 years ago, the nation’s largest environmental education competition started right here in Pennsylvania. In 1979, Conservation Districts across Pennsylvania founded the Environmental Olympics, a county-based educational competition aimed at engaging local youth in natural resource conservation learning and stewardship challenges.

By 1988, the Enviro-Olympic's popularity had spread beyond Pennsylvania, and the first national competition was hosted with teams from Ohio and Massachusetts joining the fun. In 1992, the competition stepped onto the international stage with the inclusion of Canadian teams, adopting its current name: Envirothon. 

Why Envirothon?  

While the Envirothon competition first took shape more than 40 years ago, the program’s goals are just as relevant and important today. Aligned with the National Standards for Environmental Education, Envirothon aims to: 

  • Promote a desire to learn about the surrounding natural environment and the complexities of current environmental issues 

  • Promote stewardship of natural resources 

  • Develop skills required to achieve and maintain a natural balance between quality of life and quality of environment 

  • Cultivate a sense of environmental awareness that empowers youth to become action-oriented citizens 

Learn more about the goals of Envirothon.

The 2024 Competition 

These goals are accomplished through Envirothon’s unique competition model. Guided by a teacher or volunteer coach, teams of five students in grades 9 through 12 are assembled for the county competition. Teams study and prepare for challenges in five interdisciplinary areas: soils and land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife, and current environmental issues. This year, students will dive into "Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Future" as the featured current environmental topic.

On competition day, teams will rotate between interdisciplinary stations: navigating identification quizzes, scenario challenges, and more. Stations are led by volunteers who work in environmental fields, bringing a diversity of perspectives and experiences. After the competition, team scores are tallied and ranked, and the top scoring teams are announced during an awards ceremony. For the second consecutive year, scholarships will be awarded to support future educational goals.

Beyond Competition Day 

Educational competitions have gained popularity, and for good reason. These competitions allow students to move beyond traditional classrooms, motivating youth to immerse themselves in real-time, hands-on experiences.

When students participate in Envirothon, they cultivate and practice hard skills, elevating their career readiness and providing valuable professional experience prior to graduating high school. Vocational knowledge and skills gained through Envirothon include but are not limited to resource management, problem-solving, listening comprehension, strategic decision making, information synthesis, ecology expertise and systems thinking, critical thinking, and understanding of current issues.

Additionally, students learn and connect with experts across a variety of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) focused fields. Over the years, students have connected with: 

  • Resource Conservationists from Allegheny County Conservation District 
  • Game Wardens representing the Pennsylvania Game Commission
  • Allegheny County Park Rangers
  • Experts from Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
  • Certified Arborists 
  • Public Works Professionals 
  • Civil Engineers  

Tomorrow’s Leaders 

Today's Envirothon students become tomorrow’s leaders in field research, green engineering, conservation science, and community action. Dr. Emily Moberg, an alum of Pennsylvania Envirothon, is a perfect example of the competition’s potential to launch young people into a meaningful and impactful career.  

Dr. Emily Moberg works as a Research Lead Specialist at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in D.C. while running the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation. When asked by National Conservation Foundation- Envirothon how engagement in Envirothon can support the next generation, Dr. Moberg stated,

“The most critical challenge is making sure the next generation knows that there are both careers and interesting topics in conservation. I think allowing students, who are the next generation of conservation leaders, to explore and experience a range of environmental topics is so important.”   

Similarly, Envirothon was a foundational experience for Pennsylvania Envirothon alumni Rayn Ling, now a District Forester with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Ryan credits his experience with Envirothon as essential in shaping his career choice stating,

“When people ask me why I chose a career in forestry, I always answer without hesitation the same two reasons: Scouting and the Envirothon.”  

Check out the full interviews from Envirothon Alumni. 

Make an Impact 

Interested in making ACCD’s Envirothon a success, promoting environmental learning and impacting the next generation? Learn more about investing in future leaders by becoming a sponsor at