BURBANK, Calif. — With the school year in full swing, educators will have a new environmental science learning tool to draw from as they develop their curriculums. Disney today announced the nationwide launch of Disney’s Planet Challenge, a project-based environmental competition for 4th – 6th grade classrooms that will empower students to make a difference in school, at home and in their local communities. With more than 15 years experience running highly-acclaimed classroom environmental competitions in regional markets including California and Florida (as “Disney’s Environmentality Challenge®”), Disney developed the new Disney’s Planet Challenge in response to growing demand across all 50 states. Program collaborations with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the K-12 Alliance and state and federal government agencies ensure academic and environmental excellence. Participation in the program is free, and enrollment is open today at www.disney.com/planetchallenge.
“Disney’s environmental legacy is carried forward today in our ambitious environmental goals that not only focus on how we operate our businesses, but on how we inspire others to learn about the planet and take action as well,” said The Walt Disney Company’s senior executive vice president and chief financial officer, Tom Staggs, who oversees the company’s environmental efforts. “Disney’s Planet Challenge is an excellent example of how our unique connection to children can give us the opportunity to inspire a new generation of environmental stewards.”
To ensure Disney’s Planet Challenge promotes excellence in science education and adheres to the specific educational standards of each state, Disney is collaborating with NSTA and the K-12 Alliance. Disney has also worked closely with the U.S. and California Environmental Protection Agencies, U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife and the California Department of Education to achieve the highest in environmental standards.
“Educators are always looking for fresh, interesting ways to motivate their students,” said Dr. Francis Eberle, executive director of NSTA. “Disney’s Planet Challenge is a motivational tool for educators that not only promotes science learning, but also promotes critical thinking, teamwork and environmental responsibility. We are pleased to be collaborating with Disney and we look forward to bringing Disney’s Planet Challenge to our vast network of teachers nationwide.”
For the project, students are asked to identify an environmental issue in their local community and come up with a solution that they manage and document from start to finish. Past examples range from implementing campus-wide water conservation programs and electronics recycling drives to protecting local habitats. Classrooms will develop a portfolio that will be evaluated on environmental-relevance, student learning, changes in practices and attitudes, community involvement, lasting benefits to students, school and/or community and originality.
“From a curricular perspective, the program extends beyond science, covering social studies, civics and writing,” said Sylvia Rodriguez, the 2008 5th grade teacher of the winning Disney’s Environmentality Challenge class in California. “The benefits also go beyond school; the students and even the parents develop a real sense of community.”
The Disney’s Planet Challenge web site provides tailored lesson plans customized to reflect the curriculum standards of each state for each grade level (grades 4-6). Teachers can easily find and download relevant lessons to help them link their class project to their state standards. The web site also includes a range of multimedia features that allow students to tap into their digital creativity and create an online portfolio by uploading class work, videos, photos, charts, news articles and other documents. Classrooms that choose to maintain digital portfolios have the environmentally friendly option for a paperless submission via the web site.
National, regional and state winners will receive an array of Disney prizes including a class celebration at Disneyland® for the national grand prize champion. The winning class will also have a chance to meet a Disney Channel star and the class and its winning project may be featured on the Disney Channel. Other prizes include thousands of dollars in classroom grants, class screenings of the next Disneynature film, Oceans, and more. Additionally, winning teachers will receive a one year NSTA membership. The grand-prize winning educator will also receive an expense paid trip to the national 2011 NSTA conference where he or she will be recognized at the NSTA awards banquet. For more information, visit www.Disney.com/planetchallenge.
Disney continues to grow its portfolio of environmentally inspirational programs. Earlier this year, Disney launched “Disney’s Friends for Change: Project Green” (www.Disney.com/projectgreen) to inspire kids outside of the classroom. The campaign features Disney’s top talent including Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato and asks young people to band together and take simple actions in their daily lives to help the planet. Participating kids get to help Disney decide how to donate more than $1 million to environmental charities over the next year.