While other students were in classrooms last week, participants in the Iowa Envirothon took their studies outdoors. Last week, 15 teams from around the state competed in the 21st Iowa Envirothon, an event in which high school students work together to answer questions concerning environmental issues in aquatics, forestry, soils and current issues. In addition, each team gives an oral presentation for which they spent months to prepare.

The event is sponsored by Conservation Districts of Iowa with support from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and other organizations.

The top 15 teams after regional competitions vied for the state title last week, which was held at Springbrook State Park near Guthrie Center.

For the La Porte-Dysart FFA Chapter team, the Iowa Envirothon was a chance to return to the competition and hone their environmental skills.

Some team members chose to take part in the Envirothon because of their outdoor hobbies. For sophomore Jacob Lowe, the Envirothon was a chance to learn more about the outdoors.

"I like the aquatics part of the contest," Lowe said. "I like to fish, so it’s nice to learn about that."

Emma Rottinghaus, a junior, and Hannah Gates, a sophomore, enjoyed the contest so much last year that they returned with the La Porte team.

"It was really fun, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to continue doing it," Rottinghaus said.

Gates said her interest in nature might lead her to a job outdoors someday.

Being a part of LaPorte FFA’s team has helped Daniel Zeien, a junior, learn more about the environment, he said. It’s even played a role in his future plans.

"The soil part of the contest is closely related to agronomy, and I want to be a production agronomist," he said.

Studying soils and their characteristics helped Zeien discover that he wants to someday interact with farmers and help prescribe appropriate pesticides and fertilizers based on soil tests.

But more than that, he said, the competition has helped him realize the importance of protecting the environment.

"You learn a lot about the environment (through the competition) and how to help it. There needs to be something for future generations to have. You don’t want certain trees or animals or plants to go extinct," he said.

Wesley Hanson, a junior, ag­­reed. "With all the environmental changes, it’s important that we know how to be more environmentally responsible in the future. And how to teach other people about that," he said.

Hanson said the Envirothon has made him more aware of environmental issues.

"A lot of this stuff I had never heard of before I started doing this," Hanson said. "So I think that it’s important that somebody knows about it because that’s what we need for the future."

The team from Southwest Valley FFA in Corning won first place at this year’s Iowa Envirothon. It will ad­­vance to national competition in Maryland in July. The FFA from Maquoketa placed second.