SMART Schools Symposium Results: Student Engagement and Sustainability

Check out this update on the SMART School Program, provided by Dalton Kimball, AERO’s Energy Volunteer:

Earlier this year, we learned about the Montana Energy Corps Program and briefly introduced some of their projects and members. Since then, the program has been quite busy. The SMART Schools program recently had their symposium to announce winners of their state-wide, student focused sustainability challenge. All the hard work of the students, school districts, organizers and volunteers has led to an extremely successful year.

For those of you who may not be familiar, the SMART (Saving Money and Resources) Schools program is a sustainability driven competition between more than 60 school districts here in Montana. With the intention of engaging students and faculty in the use of pragmatic sustainable practices, the schools are incentivized to sign up for one, or any combination of the challenges, which include the Energy Challenge, the Green Challenge, and the Recycling Challenge. The 2016-2017 season showed remarkable results, with a combined total of $173,000 in energy savings, the diversion of 68,000 pounds of waste from landfills, and offset around 1023 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to the emissions from burning about 4 railcars worth of coal!

The Red Lodge Green Team accepting their award for promoting more environmentally friendly practices.

Included in this year’s winners were Capital High School (Helena) and Sleeping Giant Middle School (Livingston). Capital High recycled an impressive 4,000 pounds of waste and its students developed lesson plans to teach middle schoolers about carbon and plant cycles. The school installed motion and occupancy sensors throughout their buildings, and made the transition to using environmentally friendly cleaning products. The school continues to generate power from their 10 kW Solar PV system which was installed in 2015. Check out their real time data on this site:

Sleeping Giant Middle School Students pose with Lt. Governor Mike Cooney and their aquaponics materials.

Sleeping Giant Middle School has continued to focus both on energy efficiency, lighting, and spreading knowledge about alternative energy resources. Calling professionals in the Solar industry to speak with the science classes and incentivizing students and faculty to turn off computers and lights when possible are just a couple ways that they have been active. All progress is recorded and distributed to students and faculty, and some of the information is presented by 7th graders, to younger classes. Like Capital High, these efforts are complimented by a Solar PV system as well as the grants they have received to assist their journey to increased energy efficiency.

Governor Bullock congratulates the students from Brorson School on their recycling success

Alongside the winners of the competition, huge strides have been made across many the districts that have entered the competition. Sacajawea Middle School, for example, has had major success in their student led Solar Makes Sense program. Students have been extremely active in fundraising and making presentations to the school board as well as potential donors. Their efforts have generated more than $26,000 towards the implementation of a solar PV system! Their goal is to reach $130,000. If you would like to contribute and/or learn more about their program, please visit their website here.

These students are our future. It is impressive to see how passionate they are about their own future, as well as the future of their planet. I would like to extend a special thanks to Callye Foster, the SMART Schools Coordinator for keeping us abreast on recent developments.

For more info on the challenge, visit their website.

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