Whitefish School District Receives $10,000 Grant from Weyerhaeuser

Grant funds will support development of new Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship

By Beacon Staff
Weyerhaeuser facilities in Columbia Falls on June 22, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Whitefish School District has received a $10,000 grant from The Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund to help fund its new education facility, the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship.

The district’s board of trustees will formally accept the donation at the Feb. 14 meeting. The grant will be used to help cover construction costs of the facility.

“We are honored to receive this grant and excited Weyerhauser shares in our vision of experiential learning and specifically teaching kids forest management best practices as part of our curriculum,” Whitefish School District Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt stated.

When it’s completed, the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship will be an innovative educational center that provides applied learning experiences for K-12 students in energy, agriculture, forestry, natural resources, and entrepreneurship. The “net zero” facility will include classrooms, laboratories, a greenhouse, energy systems, production gardens, orchards, and an experimental forest. It will be located on a 3-acre parcel of Whitefish High School land. The estimated cost of the facility, landscaping, and four-year start up maintenance costs is approximately $2.1 million, which has been raised through private philanthropy and grants.

“The mission of the Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund is to improve the quality of life in communities where Weyerhaeuser has a presence. Since 1948, the company’s philanthropy directed more than $183 million to the communities where Weyerhaeuser employees work, live and play,” stated Weyerhaeuser Montana Resource Manager Tom Ray.

Weyerhaeuser currently operates three mills in Montana: a lumber mill in Kalispell, a plywood mill in Kalispell and a medium-density fiberboard mill in Columbia Falls.  There are currently over 500 people employed by Weyerhaeuser in Montana.

The CSE started with the vision of Whitefish science teacher, Eric Sawtelle and English teacher, Nikki Reed, along with ambitious students and community members, based on an existing “Farm to School” garden and need for a greenhouse. The Whitefish Lions Club, in collaboration with school district Food Services Director, Jay Stagg, established the garden to teach students how to grow food  to serve in the school cafeteria.  Free Flow Club students worked with local philanthropist Richard Atkinson through the Older Man Walking campaign to raise the initial $70,000 in funding.

The curriculum for CSE is being developed for kindergarten through high school so students can engage at developmentally appropriate depth and complexity on vast experiential learning opportunities.

High School students will also learn the economics of sustainability, working with local businesses on researching market trends and needs, developing business and marketing plans, managing production and distribution, and applying principles of sustainability to all facets of business practices. The Center for Applied Sustainability is planned to open in 2017.

For more information, visit whitefishschools.org.