For the past school year, high school students across the Bay State have been rising to that challenge as they participate in the Massachusetts Envirothon environmental education program. Those students are headed to the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown on May 14 to share what they’ve learned.

After preparing through the school year, 250 high school students from more than 30 Massachusetts communities from Boston to the Berkshires will be ready to show how much they know about Massachusetts’ soils, forests, water, and wildlife as well as this year’s Current Issue – Climate Crisis: Taking Action in Massachusetts Communities – when they gather at the Quabbin to compete in the 28th annual Massachusetts Envirothon.

“Climate change is one of the most challenging issues the Commonwealth will face in the near and long term, and the Baker-Polito administration is dedicated to ensuring Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in addressing this issue,” said Matthew Beaton, Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.  “I am pleased that Envirothon gives students from across Massachusetts the opportunity to learn about the environment and brainstorm ways to prepare our state for the effects of climate change.”

At the outdoor field competition event, teams will rotate through four “ecostations” where they will answer written questions and engage in hands-on activities such as soil analysis, wildlife habitat assessment, tree identification, and water quality measures. Each team will have up to 10 participants and will split into specialized sub-teams during the competition, each focusing their efforts at different ecostations.

At the fifth station, the Current Issue, each team will give a 15 minute presentation on “Climate Crisis: Taking Action in Massachusetts Communities” to a panel of judges. Teams have been researching the Current Issue in their own community in preparation for their presentation.  Each panel of judges includes concerned citizens and environmental professionals from government agencies, non-profit organizations, academia and private industry. Teams were asked to assess how climate change may affect their community and to recommend steps that their city or town and individuals, including young people, should take to respond to the challenge.

“These teams work hard getting to know their local ecosystems and how their communities depend on them. We test their scientific knowledge, but we also like to hear their stories about how they have gotten muddy, cold, and tired, and otherwise had fun and fallen in love with nature in their neighborhood. The best hope for the future comes from engaged, scientifically literate citizens who care about their communities and the environment,” said Massachusetts Envirothon Steering Committee Chair Will Snyder of the University of Massachusetts Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment.

The 2015 Massachusetts Envirothon is made possible through the contributions of partnering agencies and organizations, including financial support from the U.S. Forest Service; the Massachusetts Grange; Environmental Business Council of New England; and local conservation districts.

Fifteen federal and state environmental agencies, conservation districts, non-profit organizations, higher educational institutions, and businesses provide expertise and help organize the event. Dozens of volunteers will also be on hand on May 14 to handle all the event logistics from setting up tents, tables and chairs, checking-in teams, serving food, scoring tests and cleaning up.