by Dennis Dalman
A team of five Sartell students will compete in the Minnesota Envirothon contest May 18 in Cloquet.
There, they will participate in competition with 24 teams from eight regions in the state. Another team, a Sartell Middle School team, took first place but that age group is not qualified to go on to state competition. The members of that first-place team are Izzy Kucala, Sierra Moore, Tarah Rosendahl and Sarah Schmitz.
The state qualifying team’s members are Alex Bertsch, Austin Grundhoefer, Jarret Janu, Jonathan Oleson and Rory Spanier. They placed third in the regional meet in New London, qualifying them for the state meet.
To earn their third-place finish, team members had to work very hard beforehand, answer many questions from a panel of experts and give a speech, as well as materials about this year’s topic – urban forestation, or the planting of trees within cities. Their material was presented to two judges, who made the final selections.
The topic required specialized knowledge in a number of topics: soil, aquatics, wildlife and forestry, to name just four.
The plan they presented in Spicer was a program to plant certain trees to forest a city. They chose native deciduous trees such as aspens and maples and explained all the reasons why those trees would fit best in an urban environment. One reason, for example, was to plant trees that would not attract destructive insects.
Bertsch, 15, has competed in the Envirothon since he was a seventh-grader. His involvement in the program fits perfectly into his interests. He is, for instance, an avid experimental gardener and is keenly interested in anything to do with the natural environment.
One of his hobbies last summer was to grow an interesting “Three Sisters” garden, based on centuries-old Native American plantings of New England. In a backyard plot, Bertsch planted corn, squash and climbing peas that grew up the corn stalks. The big leaves of the squash plants gave needed shade for the cool-loving peas to grow. The corn stalks acted as a trellis line for the peas, and the peas took nitrogen from the air and provided it to the soil for the other plants to thrive upon.
Besides his interest in gardening and the environment, Bertsch is a well-rounded student who excels in academics and in cross country, track and swimming. Bertsch credits science teacher Ben Hoffman with inspiring his interest in all things environmental.
Bertsch is the son of Carolyn and Matt Bertsch of Sartell.