In 1979, the Pennsylvania Soil and Water Conservation Districts created an “Environmental Olympics” competition as an approach aimed to encourage high school students to become interested in natural resource conservation and environmental issues. The Environmental Olympics, later shortened to Enviro-Olympics, quickly gained popularity as a hands-on, outdoor competition designed to challenge and test each student’s knowledge of soils/land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife, and current environmental issues.
For nearly a decade, the Pennsylvania Enviro-Olympics program demonstrated its ability to promote environmental literacy and supplement education in grades 9-12. The program quickly grew in size to include participation by 40 conservation district teams at the 1987 Pennsylvania State Enviro-Olympics, providing greater visibility for the program and stimulating the interest of neighboring states.
In 1988 the program became known as the Envirothon. That year, teams from Ohio, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania competed at the first National Envirothon hosted and sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts.
In 1997 Canon U.S.A., Inc. began supporting the Envirothon and in 1999 changed its role to title sponsor. The “North American” Envirothon continued its educational mission under the name, Canon Envirothon.
In 2013, with the loss as Canon as title sponsor, The National Conservation Foundation began restructuring the program and today it is known as the NCF Envirothon.
Today, most US States and Canadian Provinces participate in the Envirothon, reaching more than 500,000 students across North America each year. Thanks to dedicated volunteers, staff of cooperating agencies, teachers and advisors, enthusiastic students, and valuable support from sponsors, the Envirothon continues to prove itself as an exciting and useful tool for incorporating environmental education into the classroom. For more detailed information, go to www.envirothon.org.