By Callye Foster:
If you were to reflect upon your childhood and the countless hours spent in school, would themes of sustainability be in the forefront of your mind? Did you go to a “green” school? Was recycling an option on campus? Did your teachers remind you to turn classroom lights off in order to save energy? Did you learn how energy was produced and measured? Were you able to dig around in a school garden? If your school memories are anything like mine, you were introduced to sustainable themes in elementary school to then be quickly dissolved into a school environment heavily focused on curriculum preparing students for state standardized testing. It wasn’t until my junior and senior years in high school did I have any opportunity of enrolling in courses related to environmental studies or sustainability.
Incorporating sustainable themes into schoolwide curriculum and overall schoolwide atmosphere appears to be on the rise in Montana compared to previous years. While visiting schools, tabling at education conferences, and fostering partnerships, I have noticed teachers and school administrators are showing more buy-in into programs such as SMART Schools. Schools across the state are giving students the opportunity to enroll in courses focused on experiential learning techniques as well as kick-starting innovative student led projects. Since beginning my service, participation in SMART Schools has increased by 25 percent and I believe it is due to school’s desires to incorporate green themes and projects that are inclusive of the entire school. I was able to see this desire firsthand by organizing and inviting all SMART Schools to this year’s annual SMART Schools Symposium.
The SMART Schools Symposium took place on May 11 in the Capitol Building Rotunda in Helena. Roughly 75 students and administration attended the event to showcase their SMART Schools projects and network with others. Each school was given the opportunity to give a presentation outlining their hard work and successes. The seven students from Brorson School gave a presentation on their recycling efforts focusing on the help from their local community. Thanks to their partnerships and community engagement, the small k-8 school was able to recycle over 500 pounds per student. A group of students from Sacajawea Middle School in Bozeman presented on their student led efforts to continue fundraising over $100,000 to install a solar array on their campus. Governor Steve Bullock and Lt Governor Mike Cooney gave inspiring speeches to the students during the event and had lunch with the group as well.
For me, this event was a reflection of not only the participating school’s hard work but my efforts as well. Looking back on my time with the SMART Schools program and Energy Corps, I reflect on how grateful and lucky I am to be a part of something so purposeful. The conclusion of my second service term with Energy Corps is quickly approaching and I am excited to further my passion and commitment to sustainable community based solutions and education. So, here is a written toast to all the great experiences and useful knowledge I have gained throughout my service and the continuation of bringing sustainability into Montana schools! Cheers ya’ll!!
Callye Foster has a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a policy concentration and a minor in Energy and Sustainability. During her time at the University of Central Florida, she held three officer positions with non-profit UCF Chapter I.D.E.A.D (Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions): President, Treasurer and Clean Up Coordinator. Callye was the 2015-2016 Montana SMART Schools Coordinator through Energy Corps and will continue her second service term this year.