WHITEFISH – The community of Whitefish has much to celebrate at the 4th annual Flathead Earth Day Festival on Saturday.
While the Earth Day event has grown each year to provide awareness and education for many of all ages, this year the festival will showcase one of the biggest strides to date — the opening of the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship.
The $2.65 million innovative educational center — which was funded by community philanthropy and grants — will provide applied learning experiences for K-12 students in sustainable energy, agriculture, forestry, natural resources, and entrepreneurship.
"We have a hands-on learning facility unlike any other that school districts have available to them," said Whitefish Schools Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt. "The ability of our kids to actually be able to do experiments and dig into the dirt and have a messy space inside and have a greenhouse to grow things and a production garden is absolutely incredible."
"These classroom buildings are designed to be spaces of inquiry and exploration. Places of action and doing so that they can apply those skills and behaviors or sustainable citizenship into their lives both now and into the future," added Whitefish Schools Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Professional Development Ryder Delaoye.
The center will have its official grand opening this Saturday at the city’s annual Earth Day Celebration, but first and fifth graders have already had the opportunity to christen the classroom.
"Not only will those behaviors, dispositions and understanding continue into the future, they will impact the family right then and there," Delaoye said. "That when your third grader holds you accountable to recycling that’s a bitter pill to swallow and you realize I have to do something about this because that’s their future and they’re taking responsibility for it."
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center will take place at 12 p.m. on Saturday. The facility is located next to the high school and students will lead tours of the new center.