10 Environmental Science Competitions for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A forestry student working outside

10 Environmental Science Competitions for High School Students

Environmental science competitions for high school students serve as a platform to showcase skills in tackling global ecological challenges. Among high school students top environmental science competitions, two standout events are the Action for Nature International Young Eco-Hero Awards and the 4-H Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program.

1. Action for Nature International Young Eco-Hero Awards

  • Location: This is a global competition open to young environmentalists from all around the world.
  • Registration Fee: none
  • Important date: February 28, 2024.
  • Eligibility: Open to youth aged 8 to 16, the competition seeks participants who have initiated and executed a project concerning environmental health, advocacy, research, or protection of the natural world.

The Action for Nature International Young Eco-Hero Awards recognize and reward the innovative environmental projects of young individuals. Winners receive cash prizes, certificates, and public recognition, encouraging them to continue their efforts in environmental conservation.

Asian woman travel and camping alone at natural park

In the Action for Nature International Young Eco-Hero Awards, considerable emphasis is placed on the duration and sustainability of participants’ environmental projects, with a preference for those that span over two years or are ongoing. The judging panel evaluates each project based on a comprehensive set of criteria. These include the originality of the idea, the challenges faced during its implementation, and the project’s organizational structure.

Additionally, the time committed to the project, its capacity to influence and educate others, the effective utilization of external resources, the level of achievement in meeting set objectives, and, importantly, the project’s overall environmental impact are key factors in the decision-making process. This holistic approach in assessing each project ensures a fair and comprehensive evaluation of the young participants’ contributions to environmental conservation.

2. 4-H Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program

  • Location: This program is held in various states across the United States, including competitions at Iowa State University and Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
  • Registration Fee: The registration fee can vary by state
  • Important dates: Important dates vary by state (For example, in Iowa, the state competition is scheduled for May 18, 2024, with registration opening on April 10, 2024. The Wildlife Habitat Education Program (WHEP) State Contest is set for April 27, 2024 in Arkansas. Other states may have different dates for their respective competitions.)
  • Eligibility: The program is open to youth in grades 3 to one-year post-high school, categorized into Junior, Intermediate, and Senior divisions based on age.

The 4-H Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program provides a hands-on environmental education experience focused on wildlife and fisheries habitat management. It involves learning about wildlife habitats, judging their quality, and understanding management practices, culminating in an annual competition where teams present their wildlife knowledge.

Pretty young girls having outdoor science lesson exploring nature

In the diverse landscape of the 4-H Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program, each state competition is tailored with specific themes or focal areas, reflecting the unique ecological characteristics of the region. For example, the 2024 Arkansas state contest zeroes in on Urban Wildlife Identification, spotlighting species endemic to the Eastern Deciduous Forest and Wetland ecoregions. This thematic approach enriches the learning experience, offering participants a nuanced understanding of local biodiversity.

Many resources are available to aid their preparation, including detailed manuals and practice materials. These resources equip participants with the necessary knowledge and skills, ensuring they are well-prepared for the intricate nuances of their state’s specific environmental context.

3. Envirothon

  • Location: The Envirothon hosts competitions across the United States, Canada, China, and Singapore, culminating in an annual international event.
  • Important dates: July 28 to August 3.
  • Registration Fee: The registration fee details vary by state and region. Teams should consult their local Envirothon coordinators for specific fee information.
  • Eligibility: High school students in grades 9-12 or 14-19 can participate. Each team has five students and must have a designated coach or teacher.

The Envirothon competition challenges students in aquatic ecology, forestry, soils and land use, wildlife, and current environmental issues. Incorporating STEM principles, it offers a dynamic platform for students to develop critical thinking skills and devise inventive solutions to complex environmental and natural resource issues. Participants are encouraged to work collaboratively, promoting team-building and leadership skills.

Side view at multi-ethnic group of students using laptop while studying in college

Envirothon also serves as an educational journey, equipping students with environmental knowledge and conservation of natural resources through academic study and outdoor experiences. It aims to inspire action in local communities and instill a lifelong commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability. The competition’s structure involves hands-on learning and outdoor field experiences, making it a comprehensive educational endeavor for young environmental enthusiasts.

4. National Ocean Sciences Bowl

  • Location: Held in various regions across the United States.
  • Registration Fee: Information specific to the registration fee is not universally specified and may vary by region.
  • Important Dates: Regional competitions have varying dates; the national finals’ specific dates are typically announced post-regional rounds.
  • Eligibility: High school students are eligible to participate in the NOSB.

The National Ocean Sciences Bowl is an academic competition that immerses high school students in the expansive world of oceanography. It offers an in-depth exploration of the oceanic environment, covering many topics including biology, chemistry, physics, and geology. The competition consists of quiz-bowl-style rounds, testing students’ knowledge and understanding of ocean sciences.

aerial view of a coast

Not only does the NOSB provide a rigorous academic challenge, but it also cultivates an appreciation for marine science and promotes environmental stewardship. By participating in this competition, students gain valuable experience in scientific research and inquiry, setting a strong foundation for future careers in environmental science and related fields.

5. Shell Eco-marathon

  • Location: Hosts regional events across the Americas, Europe and Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East.
  • Registration Fee: Specific details about the registration fee for the 2024 competition are unspecified.
  • Important Dates: Vary by region and specific competition.
  • Eligibility: Students who design, build, and test ultra-energy-efficient vehicles can participate.

The Shell Eco-marathon is a unique competition that challenges student teams to design, build, and test energy-efficient vehicles. It emphasizes innovation and sustainability in automotive engineering, pushing the boundaries of fuel efficiency. The competition includes two vehicle classes – Prototype and UrbanConcept, and three energy categories – battery-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and internal combustion engine.

construction managers working together

This competition is an extraordinary educational experience, allowing students to apply their engineering and scientific knowledge in a practical, environmentally-focused context. It encourages creative problem-solving, teamwork, and a deeper understanding of energy efficiency and sustainable transportation technologies. Students contribute to the global conversation on energy sustainability and environmental responsibility through the Shell Eco-marathon.

6. River of Words Art and Poetry Contest

  • Location: International
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Submission deadline – February 29, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students from kindergarten to 12th grade, ages 5 to 19, enrolled in school​.

Open internationally, the River of Words Art and Poetry Contest fosters a global platform for youth to showcase their talents and environmental insights. The contest’s inclusivity and global reach allow students from diverse backgrounds to share their unique interpretations and relationships with nature.

The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose

With a submission deadline typically set in early spring, the contest aligns with the academic calendar, allowing educators to integrate it into their environmental science or art curriculums. This approach enhances students’ understanding of environmental issues and cultivates their artistic skills, making it a multifaceted educational experience.

The impact of the River of Words Contest extends beyond the realm of traditional environmental science competitions. Bridging the gap between science and the arts empowers young individuals to explore and creatively communicate environmental themes.

7. Earthwatch Student Challenge Awards

  • Location: Varies by expedition
  • Registration Fee: Scholarships available
  • Important Dates: Not specified for 2024
  • Eligibility: Secondary school students; specific requirements vary by expedition​​.

The Earthwatch Student Challenge Awards hold a prestigious position among the top environmental science competitions for high school students. This program stands out for its unique approach to environmental education, combining hands-on scientific research with real-world conservation efforts.

A student holding a model of the earth

Offered to secondary school students, these awards provide an opportunity to engage in environmental science and conservation research expeditions, working alongside professional scientists. This immersive experience allows students to contribute directly to important environmental research, enhancing their understanding of ecological issues while practically applying their classroom learning.

8. The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

  • Location: U.S.A. or Canada
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Application deadline – April 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Ages 8-18, permanent residents of the U.S.A. or Canada, currently working on an inspiring service project, or have done so within the past 12 months​.

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes is a distinctive and prestigious honor within the scope of top environmental science competitions for high school students. Established to celebrate young, public-spirited individuals across North America, this prize recognizes and supports young leaders who have significantly impacted people, their communities, and the environment.

Students cleaning up the beach, volunteers collecting the waste on the coast line

The prize stands out for its focus on young individuals actively working on inspiring service projects, demonstrating commitment and leadership in addressing societal and environmental issues. Each year, the Barron Prize honors 25 outstanding young leaders between the ages of 8 and 18, offering them a substantial award to support and extend their service projects and educational goals.

9. President’s Environmental Youth Awards

  • Location: United States
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Application deadline – January 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students in grades K-12 in the United States​​​​

The President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) are a significant highlight among top environmental science competitions for high school students. This prestigious program, organized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recognizes outstanding environmental stewardship projects by K-12 students across the United States.

Some students are doing some community service.

The awards showcase and honor the innovative efforts of young environmentalists in promoting environmental awareness and community involvement. Each year, the PEYA celebrates students who have demonstrated creativity and initiative in projects addressing various environmental topics, including climate change, recycling, and sustainability.

10. Stockholm Junior Water Prize

  • Location: U.S. National Competition in Golden, Colorado; International Competition in Stockholm, Sweden
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates:
    • State Competition entry deadline – April 15, 2024
    • National Competition – June 22-24, 2024
    • International Competition – August 23-27, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students in grades 9-12, aged 15 by August 1 of the competition year, who have conducted a water-related science project​​​.

The Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) is prominent among high school students’ top environmental science competitions, emphasizing the critical issue of water science. This globally recognized award, founded in 1997, celebrates high school students who engage in innovative water-related research projects.

Biologists testing water of natural river

Open to students in grades 9-12 who have reached the age of 15 by August 1 of the competition year, SJWP encourages in-depth exploration of water quality, water resources management, and water and wastewater treatment.

The competition comprises several levels, starting from regional, moving to state, then national, and finally, the international stage. Each level of the competition acknowledges the students’ contributions to water research, with the national winner receiving a $10,000 scholarship, a trophy, and an all-expenses-paid trip to participate in the International Competition during World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden.


Top environmental science competitions for high school students are more than just contests; they are incubators for the next generation of environmental innovation and conservation leaders. These platforms showcase youthful brilliance and cultivate a profound comprehension of ecological complexities. They are nurturing grounds where theoretical knowledge meets practical application, encouraging the integration of cutting-edge technology in environmental solutions.

As these competitions evolve, they promise to shape a cadre of informed, skilled, and passionate environmental scientists and advocates. These young minds are being prepared to confront and solve the most pressing environmental issues of our era.

The drive, imagination, and commitment exhibited in these competitions ignite hope and pave the way for a future where sustainability and environmental consciousness are at the forefront. Through these competitions, we are witnessing the emergence of environmental stewards who will drive the change towards a more sustainable, ecologically balanced world.


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