Learning from SMART Schools

Read about Bill’s immersion in the SMART Schools Challenge:

“Man, I never thought I would be creating a nutrition presentation.” I commented to one of my friends at DEQ. “These schools have you all over the place, don’t they,” he responded with a laugh. It is kind of true. Since the beginning of my term of service, I have researched and written on topics ranging from servicing HVAC systems, to maintaining the proper balance of carbon to nitrogen while composting, to the challenges of rural recycling, and I love it. I have never been exposed to so many new ideas.
This year, the SMART Schools Challenge received approximately seventy five applications from just under fifty schools. These schools’ ambitious, innovative projects are pushing me far beyond my comfort zone of energy conservation, and forcing me to widen my perspective on resource conservation. Montana schools are working on projects ranging from enhancing aquaponic systems, to establishing sustainable purchasing policies, to implementing alternative transportation initiatives, forcing me to expand my knowledge base as I try to catch up. When I signed up for a second year of Energy Corps, one of my goals was to “continue the learning process I began last year.” Two and a half months into my second term of service, I can safely say, the learning process has sped up.

Bill promoting the SMART Schools Challenge in Bozeman
Bill promoting the SMART Schools Challenge in Bozeman

The SMART Schools Challenge is not only exposing me to new ideas, but to new places and people. A large portion of my service position entails travelling across this beautiful state as I visit Challenge participants. So far, I have been able to revisit the wonderful community of Red Lodge, seen some of the most spectacular mountains I have ever viewed by Bigfork, and been exposed to an entirely different way of living at a five person school district in Sand Springs. My travels have exposed me to some incredible individuals. Such as a librarian who takes it upon herself to drive all of her school’s recycling to a recycling center dozens of miles away, and a shop teacher who was willing to leave his auto class to inspect the car of a guest speaker who was having auto difficulties.
As I contemplate my next eight months of service, I cannot help but be excited for the ideas I will encounter, the places I will visit, and the individuals I will meet.

DSC_0471Bill Pedersen graduated from Hamilton College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. He spent last year as an Energy Corps Member serving with the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia. During his time with ECA, he helped conduct energy audits on low income homes, presented at community energy awareness events and taught at ECA’s Green Jobs Training Center. Bill is serving at the Montana Department of Environmental Quality this year, launching the Governor’s Smart School Initiative.


What is Next?
Holidays away from home

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