The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently recognized 10 Montana schools as the winners of the 2023-2024 SMART Schools Challenge. Each school will receive a $2,000 award to support their ongoing efforts. SMART (which stands for “Saving Money and Resources Today”) Schools is a friendly competition to encourage Montana’s K-12 schools to integrate lessons and projects relating to resource conservation, efficiency and healthy schools into existing curricula.

“The SMART Schools Challenge is designed to bring topics affecting the health and economic future of Montanans into the classroom,” said DEQ’s program manager Bonnie Rouse. “For the competition, schools could choose between project categories that include energy/resource efficiency, sustainable agricultural processes, wildfire smoke and radon effects on health, solid waste recycling, renewable energy production, and transportation electrification.”

The winners of this year’s SMART Schools Challenge Awards are:

  • Arlee High School (Sustainable Agriculture)
  • Boulder Elementary School (Upcycling)
  • Butte High School (Upcycling)
  • Capital High School (Upcycling)
  • Clark Fork School (Sustainable Agriculture)
  • Cohagen School (Upcycling)
  • Central School (Renewable Energy)
  • Kalispell Elementary School (Living Classroom & Renewable Energy)
  • Kessler Elementary (Upcycling)
  • Red Lodge High School (Renewable Energy)

Participating schools shared their projects at the SMART Schools Symposium, which took place at the Montana Capitol in April. Examples of school projects in the SMART Schools Challenge this year include establishing and maintaining school gardens and greenhouses, expanding compost programs, developing educational initiatives focused on climate change, educating students on the water pollution risks from motor oil leaks in school parking lots and increasing air quality awareness using PurpleAir monitors in schools.

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