Growth in Nature, Growth in Mind: The Minarets Natural Resources Competition

Updated: May 17

by Joseph Langley


The Minarets Natural Resources team has been hard at work learning, studying, and traveling to different schools around the region to compete- but on Dec. 21, 2019, it was their turn to set the challenge.


A Natural Resources competition consists of six main elements- Animal ID, Plant ID, Knowledge, Manipulative, Packing, and Oral Presentation.


In Animal and Plant ID, students are given 50 plants or animals to identify off of a predetermined list of native species. In Knowledge, topics covered range anywhere from air pressure systems, to fault lines, to mountain elevations- anything to do with general knowledge of nature in California. In the Manipulative, there are many different tasks that students can be asked to perform, some of the most common being map reading, finding the ages of trees, and identifying animal tracks.

The equipment that competing students had to pack securely onto the mule.
Before securing the load on the mule, the boxes must be efficiently packed.

Packing tests students in their ability to pack equipment onto a mule, and secure it with a box hitch. Each time, students don’t know what items they are going to be given, which presents a very interesting puzzle. The Minarets Natural resources team has been coached in packing by Debbie McDougald, and it was her expert eye that judged the packing aspect of the competition.

Before presenting, students are given thirty minutes of preparation time.




Oral Presentation is a presentation given to a panel of judges, after thirty minutes of formulating answers to the given natural-resources questions. The theme of all the questions this year is rangeland management.






Juniors Ben Bradley and Hana Unruh took the lead in hosting the Minarets tournament this year. In order to prepare for all of the tests listed above, however, there were bound to be challenges. Ben Bradley spoke about some of the ones he faced; “It was hard to find plant samples because of the diversity of the area. I went around from Coarsegold to Oakhurts to Bass Lake to North Fork, around three to four times.” Kailey Lemon was also a big contributor of plants.

Ben is also taking this competition on as his SLE next year, so that it can continue being a Minarets tradition- and Hana might be joining him. His plan is to create a handbook for future students after he’s gone, so that the process of hosting the event can be easily passed on. He also wants to make sure that future competitions have at least five to six weeks of preparation before hand, as planning it with three weeks this year was very difficult.


Hana also talked about some of the challenges she faced. “Awards were a big challenge. We wanted something more than just paper certificates. The construction class cut 120 five by seven wooden awards, along with bigger ones for the team awards. Ben and John Rodriguez routered and screwed. Then we needed to put the design on it, so I decided on a rustic theme, with burned wood and paper.”

A competition like this also requires collaboration with the entire community. Freshmen Kailani Caballero, Jake Hadjis, and Paige Camacho, Juniors Emma Bloodsworth, Cody Huckabee, Kylee Jones, Charlie Crose, and Kylee Best, and Seniors Luke Longatti, Isaiah Gibson, Daniel Speak, and Madeline Vellandi all came to help on the day of the competition. They led teams around the different tests, and helped grade as the results came in. Minarets community members Melanie Bradley, Ashlyn Lemon, and Mark Lemon judged the Oral Presentation while senior Colby Jobinger and junior Kylee Jones also helped prep the awards.

At the forefront of the entire operation was Minarets Natural Resources coach Heidi Mitchell; Ag teacher and team supervisor Richard Chapman said it best. “Heidi Mitchell is amazing and did everything! We can’t ever thank her enough for what she does for us.”

With all of this hard work leading up to the event, and gathering the community, it was bound to be a huge success, and it certainly was. Porterville, Clovis, Mariposa, Reedley Middle College, Sierra, and Foresthill all brought teams to compete. For Foresthill, this was their first competition, and the Minarets team guided them through the process.


Aaron Trujillo receiving his awards

The overall winning team was one of Reedley Middle College’s two teams that they brought. This team also contained second high individual Aaron Trujillo, who scored higher than anybody else with a perfect score in Animal ID. The third and fourth high individual places were also claimed by Reedley Middle College students Nathan Botkin and Israel Garduno. First High Individual, however, was taken by Faith Gatley from Clovis, who beat Aaron by four points.

The Minarets team’s score was not counted, to preserve fairness, and the team used this opportunity to hone their skills for the upcoming competition at Reedley Middle College, on Saturday, Jan. 11.

This competition, however, was a huge success, not only as a competition, but as a legacy. Minarets has been hosting a Natural Resources competition for years prior, but this is the first time that students have decided to take it up on their shoulders and make sure the tradition continues. As the years continue, and the process continues to be honed, it’s sure to keep reaching new heights never before imagined.

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