Biochemistry and Molecular Biology graduate, Elizabeth Straszynski ’88, returned to her alma mater earlier this summer, coaching the University of Toronto Schools (UTS) team to a first place finish at the 2016 Envirothon competition. Envirothon, a team-based natural resource and environmental competition that brings together high school students across Canada, the United States, and China, was held at Symons Campus from July 24-29.
As a science instructor at the University of Toronto, Elizabeth translates a passion for the outdoors and environmental education to teaching, inspiring a care for the environment in her students. For Elizabeth, escaping to the outdoors is an integral part of who she is.
“The way I recharge is spending time outside, and I like showing that to kids,” she shares, adding that her love for Envirothon stems from the authentic, holistic experience it offers to students.
“Youth in general have a very strong sense of justice. Environmental topics allow them to find a career, make decisions, be a mover and shaker, and affect change in a way that will further that justice,” says Elizabeth.
Drawn to the natural landscapes and outdoorsy feel that Trent University offers to students, Elizabeth loved her time spent at the university. As both an Envirothon coach and university instructor, the intimate, one on one approach to learning that she received at Trent has followed her into her working career. “That experience working one on one with professors, the small class sizes and the small lab sizes, that really helped, because that’s the way I work with Envirothon.”
During her Trent University education, Elizabeth was able to connect and form strong relationships with her professors, in particular Dr. Mike Berrill, Professor Emeritus of Biology. She also formed strong bonds with other students in her program. “It was a critical mass to discuss scientific philosophy, scientific topics,” she recalls. “The type of people that come here had similar mindsets in terms of what they valued.”
Elizabeth hopes to continue her involvement with Envirothon for years to come -- teaching young students to be knowledgeable in environmental issues, and how human activity has a negative impact on the world.
The 2016 North American Envirothon was a huge success for the UTS team. Representing Ontario, UTS took home the top prize of $15,000.
Envirothon was hosted by Forests Ontario and Trent University. (Photo courtesy of https://www.envirothon.org/).