MCS Envirothon teams come out on top despite 2020's challenges


By Patsy Nicosia

2020’s Capital Region and New York State Envirothons were hardly typical.
But then what about 2020 has been?
Instead of a day spent in hands-on competition, IDing skulls, soil samples, and birdsong at the New York Power Authority, the event was virtual and online.
And for Middleburgh Central School’s two teams, still a success, said science teacher and advisor Mollie Burgett.
MCS “took” two teams to the regionals, with one winning Schoharie County and advancing to the states, where members Devin Lacko, Anna Hooper, Will Churchill, and Ben Guevara-Chancey finished ninth overall.
Lily Rossman, Brian Bagley, Devin Prokop, Caitlyn Nikolaus, and Sam Zinssar made up MCS’s second team.
Both teams had challenges beyond the usual ones, Ms. Burgett said—but familiar to anyone who’s spent the past few months learning Zoom.
Three minutes into the state competition, team captain Devin got kicked off because of internet issues and for that test, had to sit it out in the Zoom waiting room.
MCS’s second team had its own challenges: One member competed while watching a rambunctious three-year-old, she said, while another had to log in with two devices because one had video but no sound and the other had sound but no video.
“And both were a requirement during the competition,” Ms. Burgett said.
“It was fun watching them all work together to overcome these obstacles.”
Despite the missing hands-on element, most of the questions the teams faced were similar to those of past Envirothons—but instead of flipping through, say bound books of soil maps, the kids were forced to scroll through them on-screen and share what they came up with with screen shots.
“It was a little but more stressful with the clock ticking down, but the kids stepped right up and showed how resilient they could be,” Ms. Burgett said.
“That it itself was a valuable experience. And getting through it made the kids feel that they’d really accomplished something.
“After working all year, they were just glad they were able to participate and it gave some normalcy to a year that’s been anything but normal.”