By Sarah Kilbourne, Missoula Current

The Clark Fork School (CFS) was recently recognized for a second time in December 2020 by the Eco-Schools USA program. CFS, a nature-based preschool in the Rattlesnake neighborhood of Missoula, became Montana’s first Eco-School in 2012.

There are 39 certified EcoSchools in Montana, but CFS is currently the only school in the state to have received a Green Flag, and we now have two.

The Green Flag is the highest level of award possible in the Eco-Schools USA program and involves working on three environmental focus areas. For our second Green Flag award, our students focused on biodiversity, energy and water pathways. Students and teachers assessed the biodiversity in our school garden, examined where we could be more energy efficient, and helped families install rain barrels to use rainwater for playground use instead of freshwater.

Kiddos from all age groups are involved in the sustainability of our school and community. This includes students in our youngest class who are just two years old! At CFS we believe it is never too early to start learning about the environment and our roles in stewarding it.

Students in each class decide on community agreements with their classmates and teachers. Each agreement focuses on showing respect for others, the school and our environment. Students ask themselves, “How can we take care of the Earth?” Teachers model sustainability by commuting via bus, carpool or bike, bringing reusable lunch containers and water bottles, and composting food scraps in the school garden. We have a reward system for staff members who commute sustainably to school, which includes perks like gift cards to local Missoula businesses.

Last year when the school closed down during the pandemic, the Chickadee class teachers Whitni Kent and Sarah Clark used Earth Day to raise awareness of environmental stewardship with their students. Since they couldn’t celebrate together in person, Whitni and Sarah collected a bag of trash for each of their students at Greenough Park and the Riverfront Trail System to show the kids they were thinking about them, as well as about the Earth.

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