SFI Is Helping Montana Students to Engage in Forest-Based Research and Sustainable Forestry Practices

Whitefish Lake Institute Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship
Why This Project Matters
The Whitefish Lake Institute Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship is a planned innovative educational center in Whitefish, Montana. It will provide hands-on learning experiences for K-12 students in sustainable energy, agriculture, forestry, natural resources and entrepreneurship. The fundamental objective of the center is to prepare Whitefish students for college, careers and citizenship by immersing them in interdependent, real-world programs.
The center was an idea started by students and teachers and led by the Whitefish School District. Through a private funding partnership and grants it will become a showcase for the community’s support for schools and for new ways to develop better citizens and leaders. The center — to be located on more than three acres/1.2 hectares of land — will include a greenhouse, a two-story classroom building, gardens, an orchard, an experimental forest, a native grass meadow, a wet meadow detention pond and trails.
Students enrolled in the Flathead Valley Community College Natural Resource and Conservation Program will collaborate with Whitefish High School students on GIS mapping field studies, and examining forestry topics like productivity rates and forest hydrology. Results from field studies will lead to action plans that promote sustainable forest management. Whitefish High School students will in turn mentor Whitefish Middle School and Muldown Elementary students on studies and service projects connected to their work with Flathead Valley Community College. This project will connect youth to their own sustainable forest on lands owned by the center.
Why is SFI Involved?
SFI values this project because it builds mentorship experiences in which students learn from students about sustainable forest management. It also has the potential to encourage students to pursue careers in forestry.
One of SFI’s priorities is to connect youth to forests through education. We look for ways to instill a lifelong appreciation for the value forests represent for biodiversity, the wider environment, sustainable communities, responsibly sourced forest products and for our shared quality of life. The educational focus of this project also supports SFI’s focus on encouraging the next generation of future forest leaders.
Our work with Boy Scouts of America, Girl Guides of Canada, Scouts Canada, and other youth organizations and school programs like Project Learning Tree and Earth Rangers, helps build healthy kids. It also engages youth in conservation activities and outdoor education.
Our kids’ contact with nature keeps shrinking. Today’s emphasis on screen time and indoor play is also linked to psychological and physical effects like obesity, loneliness, depression and attention problems. Getting kids into forests and helping them learn about sustainability is good for forests and good for kids.
How the Project Builds SFI Community Engagement
F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company, the oldest family-owned lumber company in Montana, is an SFI Program Participant and project partner. The Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship will be built using lumber from F.H. Stoltze. F.H. Stoltze, the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and non-profit Whitefish Lake Institute are partnering with the Whitefish School District to help students learn about their surrounding forest and watershed zones.
The center’s experimental forest will also be a model for promoting SFI’s forest certification program and the associated conservation values it promotes like clean water, clean air and biodiversity. Whitefish School District will work with SFI Inc. and F.H. Stoltze to ensure the K-12 forestry related curriculum content aligns with SFI best practices.
This partnership includes representatives from a school board, a non-profit group, a college and an SFI Program Participant. Project partners:
  • Project lead: Whitefish School District
  • Sustainable Forestry Initiative
  • F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company (SFI Program Participant)
  • Weyerhaeuser (SFI Program Participant)
  • Whitefish Lake Institute
  • Flathead Valley Community College
Related information
The Montana Forest Restoration Committee won the SFI 2014 Conservation Leadership Award for helping grizzly bear habitat and restoring forests.
Whitefish School District
About Whitefish School District
At Whitefish Schools our vision is to engage students in their own learning through goal-oriented experiences guided by innovative, inspiring educators and community partners. Talented teachers, support staff and administrators in Whitefish Schools work to make this happen each and every day and the Whitefish community joins in to make learning meaningful, relevant and connected to the world beyond school.
The Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship is expected to open in 2017, with a focus on agriculture, natural resources, forestry, energy and entrepreneurship. Students in grades K-12 will participate in hands-on projects in this net zero experiential learning center.