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Education Programs & Contests

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Environmental Education

Staff contacts:  Brenda Williams (919) 545-8440

Chatham County offers educator training and student programs to advance environmental literacy among its citizens.

We offer:

Conservation Contests 

The Chatham County Soil and Water Conservation District sponsors a conservation poster, essay, and public speaking contest each year. These contests have been in existence for over 50 years.

The Contests have been an important tool for the District to encourage young people to think about conservation. It's also a way for us to become involved with our local schools and our youth, and to introduce them to their local Conservation District.

winners of poster and essay
Past winners of Poster & Essay contest

For flyers providing an overview and details for each contest, please click on the appropriate link below:

For complete info on the contests, including scoring rubric, registration forms, hints and tips, as well as NC DPI Goals & Objectives, please visit the

All entries in the same grade category are combined with no distinction between schools. A first, second and third place finalist is selected in each of the grade categories. First place posters are then sent to the Area 3 competition, which represents these eleven counties: Chatham, Rockingham, Lee, Moore, Caswell, Randolph, Alamance, Montgomery, Guilford, Person and Orange.

The first place winners from the Area then compete at the State level. State winners are entered in a nation-wide contest and are judged at the National Association of Conservation Districts' Annual Convention.

All winning entries are invited to an awards banquet where the students are presented with a monetary award, t-shirt and a certificate for their accomplishments. In addition, teachers with a first place winning student will receive a cash award to be used towards educational supplies.


For information on the local Envirthon competition, please visit our Envirothon website.

The North American Envirothon is a nation-wide annual competition in which winning state/provincial teams compete for recognition and scholarships by demonstrating their knowledge of environmental science and natural resource management. The teams, each consisting of five high school-aged students from participating US States and Canadian Provinces, exercise their training and problem-solving skills in a competition centered five universal testing categories: soils/land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife, and a current environmental issue.

Training for the North American Envirothon begins well in advance of the actual event. Each team arrives at the North American Envirothon as a result of extensive training and superior performance at local and/or regional and state/provincial Envirothon competitions.

The Envirothon program is an effective educational tool, capable of supplementing environmental education both inside and outside the classroom. Led by a volunteer advisor, teams usually meet from late autumn until spring. Teams work collaboratively to develop their knowledge of ecology and natural resource management and to practice their environmental problem-solving skills in preparation for Envirothon competitions.

Team training includes field trips to natural resource sites, museums, or other areas of interest; listening to presentations given by natural resource professionals; and careful study of natural resource materials. Through these learning activities, teams increase their knowledge of and ability to understand complex environmental and natural resource issues.

For more information, visit our Envirothon webpage.  You can also visit the North American Envirothon website to find out about the national competition. 



RCW Informational flyer (pdf)

This is a weeklong camp focusing on conservation of natural resources.  It is open to all rising sophomore, junior and senior high school students interested in natural resource management.

Every year, the RCW is held at the NC State University campus in late June.

For more information, please contact us.  Applications will be available after January 31st.

 Go here for application :

Educational Field Days

Chatham Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has conducted Environmental Field Days for middle school students since the mid 1980’s. The field day was originally held on a retired farm. In 1994, the field day was moved to the current location at Jordan Lake Educational State Forest. Students rotate to 6 different stations such as Forestry, Soils, Wildlife, Water Quality, Beekeeping and Soil and Water Conservation.

forester showing students boring of pine tree  
State Forester shows students how to tell age of a tree.

 In order to stay in line with the Standard Course of Study, the Environmental Field Days are held for sixth grade students. We continue to work ensure that the Environmental Field Days enhances what the students are learning at school. We welcome suggestions and new ideas.

State and local government workers along with citizen volunteers conduct 15-20 minute classes at the field days. In the past instructors have included the following professionals:

NC Forest Service
NC Wildlife Commission
State Park Rangers
US Army Corp of Engineers
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
NC Department of Agriculture
NC Zoo
Various Chatham County Government departments
Private Industry
Local citizens

Outdoor Environmental Learning Centers

In partnership with the Foundation for Soil & Water Conservation, the Chatham Soil & Water Conservation District has helped create several outdoor environmental learning centers for county schools: Siler City Elementary and Pittsboro Elementary and Silk Hope School.  These learning centers have created an environment where students and teachers have the opportunity to explore the natural world in an outdoor setting. 

Pittsboro Elementary worked with Town of Pittsboro Parks & Recreation and the Chatham Cooperative Extension to clean up the trail between the school and Town Lake Park. Recently, Soil & Water Conservation obtained grants to add an Out Door Learning Center and this spring added a pier on the Town Lake for students to have access to the lake to take water samples.

Town Lake Trail Clean-up   

Outdoor Classroom

 Trail clean-up was a group effort and included invasive plant removal.

 An eager student tests out the cypress benches at the outdoor classroom. Grant provided by Foundation for SWCD

 OLC, Pier, Town Lake 

Pittsboro Town Lake Pier, Grant provided by Foundation for SWCD


Siler City Elementary received their outdoor classroom and continue to use it on a regular basis.

 outdoor learning center

 The District helped obtain state grant funds to build an outdoor learning center at Siler City Elementary.

If you are interested in creating an outdoor environmental learning center at your school, please give us a call at (919) 542-8240!  We will apply for grants to help your school!