Center for Sustainability and Entrepeneurship

April 21, 2018

On Earth Day 2018 Whitefish School District launched the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship (CSE). This facility is engineered to be the first zero-net energy facility in Montana. The CSE houses two classrooms, an attached four-season greenhouse, and surrounding landscaping that will incorporate a food forest, a wetland, xeriscaping with native plants, an outdoor classroom and an experimental forest. The Center utilizes a Climate Battery which incorporates annualized geo-solar principles by allowing air to be redistributed through ground source pumps. This system is estimated to provide a 15 degree increase in the air temperature of the greenhouse. Temperature regulation in the summer is accomplished through the use of automated controls that engage evaporative misters and automated motorized vent windows. The CSE has wall insulation at R33 and roof insulation at R60. The windows are triple-paned and maintain the highest standard of low U values. Three high efficiency ductless mini splits provide supplemental heat for the greenhouse and the classroom space is heated by air source heat pumps. The primary sources of electrical energy will be derived from a ninety-two panel 31 kW solar system. This system provides the required 43,000 kWh needed to run the facility annually. By partnering with Flathead Electric Cooperative, the District earns credits when the solar systems produce excess energy during the summer months to offset the lack of energy produced during the winter months. Additional aspects of the facility that promote sustainability include the water system, air quality system, and the use of reclaimed materials. The water system is recharged through rain. Given the abundance of rain our community experiences, we plan to capture rain to irrigate our greenhouse. The greenhouse internal gutter collects rainwater and stores it within the lower level tanks that each holds 260 gallons. Two additional 700 gallon tanks are located on the balcony. Water is pumped from the lower tanks to the upper tanks. Whenever possible the construction of the CES strived to incorporate reclaimed materials. The siding and trim are reclaimed materials. Two heat recovery ventilators function to provide a forced air distribution and filtration system.

By working directly with local businesses and organizations, students are gaining the knowledge and experience needed to foster personal and societal transformation. Real-world projects are allowing all students to experience learning that is supportive, individualized and meaningful. Below are the learning domains that orient CSE programming. The Center for Sustainability and Entrepeneurship is also a tool for the Whitefish community to learn about and experience sustainable practices. Through our adult education programming workshops are being held to educate the community on topics of home energy efficiency retrofits, small-scale farming practices, local ecology, and many other sustainability-related topics. Through a holistic approach to K-12 and adult/community education we are working to foster sustainability in all facets of the Whitefish community.


Working directly with community, regional and national partners, students learn about energy consumption, energy modeling and technologies, green building practices, and strategies for reducing the community’s carbon footprint. Students investigate the ways policy and engineering are shaping our energy needs and patterns of consumption.


Through hands-on inquiry, students learn about healthy food systems, sustainable farming practices, strategies for scaled agriculture production, soil science and more. Students plant, cultivate and harvest food to be used in the District’s cafeterias. Internship opportunities ensure that students gain first hand knowledge from local commercial agriculture production facilities, greenhouses and ranches. Students of all ages experience the reward of locally harvested food.


In partnering with local forestry companies, the Forest Service, and the National Park Service, students learn about the growth, health, composition and quality of forests. Students explore the relationship between policy and forest management. Students use both experience in the field and digital tools such as GIS to research and apply forest management and water quality improvement techniques.


Students learn about land, water, soil, plants and animals, ecological systems, and focus on how the management of our natural resources affects the quality of life for present and future generations. Students track consumption and examine how waste is created and can be reduced. Working with local organizations and businesses, students develop strategies to use resources more effectively.


Through the CSE, students have the opportunity to understand how sustainability is shaping their community and impacting them as citizens. Students learn about future career pathways and practices related to sustainability and entrepreneurship. Students form strong bonds with the community as they strengthen community connections through volunteerism and internships.



Students attended


Staff attended


Additional Volunteers attended


Students will be impacted this year

Intended impact of project

Reduced environmental impact
Improved occupant health & performance
Increased environmental & sustainability literacy
Reduce landfill waste

Impact of project

Energy and/or water conservation
Environmental restoration
Improved student/staff health and wellness
Improved environmental & sustainability literacy
Financial savings
Beautification of school/site

More impact of project

Through the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship we plan to change education and create a sustainable citizenry. This is a collaborative multiage project that will bring the community together to develop the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to create a more resilient, engaged, and compassionate citizenry. Building a sustainable citizenry is a critical step in helping our community address the impending challenges that will arise in our rapidly changing world.