Montana Department of Environmental Quality About Us Permitting & Operator Assistance Public Participation

SMART Schools

Program Overview

Smart Schools is a friendly competition to encourage Montana's K-12 schools to integrate lessons and projects relating to resource conservation, efficiency and healthy schools. There are 8 different student driven project categories to choose from (See SMART Schools tab below for more information about projects categories). This year, at the end of the challenge, 10 winners will be selected, and each will receive a $2,000 award. Teachers can use this money for their classrooms or project continuation. 

SMART Schools Registration Form

SMART Schools Grading Rubric 

Educating students about saving money and resources today isn't just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing. Schools have until January 12, 2024 to enroll.


Important Dates

  • Project proposal Registration due: January 12, 2024
  • Mid-challenge progress update via Zoom: week of March 11-15, 2024
  • Final Reports (video presentation) due: May 6, 2024
  • 2023-2024 SMART Schools Symposium: April 17th, 2024

SMART Schools Contacts

Have Questions? Please contact:

SMART Schools Program Manager
Emma Burck (406) 444-9014

The SMART Schools Competition is divided into 8 different categories: Upcycling, Alternative Transportation, Renewable Energy, Indoor Air Quality (Radon), Sustainable Agriculture, Living Classroom, and Industrial Process/Public Infrastructure (See below for more information). Schools and educators can choose to enroll in one, or more project categories. By enrolling into SMART Schools, schools and educators may be eligible to receive a scholarship for building operator certification training--a $2,000 value, free technical assistance from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

Registration Forms


Project Categories


Upcycling is converting and reusing a product into a useful product or item of value.

  • Students may assist in the production of art or classroom projects that repurpose waster materials.
  • Upcycling is not the same as recycling. Recycling is downcycling.
  • Taking and item that is no longer in use and giving it a new life or a different function.
  • May be incorporated into an art project.
Alternative Transportation

Alternative Transportaton projects focus on commuting to and from schools or field trips in other ways besides driving with the use of fossil fuels (biking, walking, carpooling, taking public transportation)

  • District use of Clean School Buses
  • Walking or Biking School Bus Program
  • Students help track the reduction of harmful gas emmission. This can be done in a variety of ways depending on the age of the students.
  • Research alternative modes oftransportation that do not burn fossil fuels
Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency meansto use less energy to perform the same tasks, reducing energy waste. EnergyEfficiency brings a variety of benefits: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing demands for energy imports and lowering costs thus making funds more available for other things (like school supplies, building maintenance, playground equipment, etc.)

  • Learn about behavior changes that will help with reducing energy consuption (turning off the lights, unplugging things, etc.)
  • Expose students to energy feeiciency in the classroom using science, technology, engineering or math lesson plans.
  • Provide hands on learning inthe classroom or outside the classroom with energy efficiency projects and energy reduction awareness.
  • Research topics that focus on energy efficiency and eliminating energy waste.
Renewable Energy

Renewable energy projects incorporate energy sources that are harvested from resources that can be replenished on a human timescale. Examples of renewable energy include: wind, rain, sunlight, water, and geothermal heat.

  • Expose students to renewable energy in the classroom using science, technology,engineering or math lesson plans.
  • Provide real time data display to demonstrate the reduction of fossil fuels with the production of renewable energy.
  • Research renewable energy sources.
Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is the quality of tair within the school building, and building annexes. Many different factors can affect indoor air quality such as: cleaning products, damp conditions, insulation, HVAC, building infrastructurem and radon. *Indoor Air Quality must include radon component to qualify.

  • Expose students to the effects of airquality from infrastructure and HVAC filter replacement or upgrades. This can be done using mediums such as: daily announcements, newsletters, and classroom lessons.
  • Class lesson plans expose students to indoor air quality.
  • Students assist in research and testing of their school's indoor air quality.
  • Students research and test their school for Radon. Students research and encourage school personnelto use green cleaning products.
  • Students research and encourage your schools to reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are released inside of the school building and annexes.
Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture is gardening or farming to meet the needs of your school or community without compromising the soil, water, climate, and promotes biodiversity for future generations.

  • Composting food waste and using compost to improve soil health.
  • The use of rainwater catchment or other waste water treatment for garden irrigation or sustainability practices.
  • Schools partnering with local farms to provide student with local produce in the cafeteria (Farm-To-School Program).
  • Expose students to sustainable agriculture lesson plans in the classroom and outside the classroom.
  • Research farming practices that focus more on biodiversity and less on monoculture.
Industrial Processes/Public Infrastructure

Industrial Infrastructure refers to systems or services that a community or country relies on to function properly. Examples of industrial infrastructure include: water supplies, power plants, waste management, and transportation systems (roads and railroads).

  • Expose students to lesson plans and/or hands on projects that focuses on industrial infrastructure.
  • Student conduct a research project on one or more facets of industrial infrastructure.
Living Classroom

A living classroom focuses on concepts of hands on activities, while utilizing school gardens, aquaponic systems and ecological tools (GPS, measuring PH and temperature,species sampling, Etc.) to educate students about environmental stewardship and healthy eating habits.

  • Provide students with garden based education and hands on activities.
  • Expose students to aquaponic systems, and garden harvests that will be used in the cafertia.
  • Integrate hands on botany lessons in the classroom.
  • Research projects related to environmental stewardship.

The winning SMART Schools are ($2,000 each):

  • Belgrade High School
  • Boulder Elementary School
  • Butte High School
  • Helena High School
  • Capital High School
  • Cohagen School
  • Red Lodge High School
  • Central Elementary School
  • Clark Fork School
  • Arlee High School

More details on Lead in Schools >>

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) has rolled out a Lead Reduction in Schools Drinking Water Rule. This rule was enacted to protect school children by minimizing lead levels in drinking water provided at Montana’s schools.

Children are the most susceptible to lead exposure and spend a large amount of their childhood in schools. It is extremely important that schools are providing safe drinking water.

Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is partnering with DPHHS to provide sampling and remediation technical assistance and guidance to schools.

Asbestos and School Buildings >>

Public and non-profit private schools have distinct regulatory requirements to protect school children and school employees from asbestos exposure. This page provides information on these requirements as well as resource materials for schools and parents.

Montana School Health Rules 37.111.801 >>

This addresses matters of health in Montana schools. Adoptions to the rules were filed with the Montana Secretary of State on January 7, 2020 and posted to in the Administrative Register on January 17, 2020.

Prior to these revisions, the school rules were last updated 1986. The administrative rules are designed to protect the health and safety of Montana students. The Department of Public Health and Human Services is coordinating with DEQ, OPI, education advocates, and other stakeholders to provide support and guidance to schools working towards compliance.


Smart Schools Program