Sixth Grade Class in Rural Iowa Selected as Winners in Inaugural Disney’s Planet Challenge

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Disney Planet Challenge Disney today announced Mrs. Julie Schnedler’s sixth grade Mediapolis Community School class as the national grand prize winner of the inaugural Disney’s Planet Challenge, a project-based learning environmental competition for 4th – 6th grade classrooms.

“It was such a tough decision for our judging committee to make. So many of the projects submitted exhibited environmental solutions grounded in science and teamwork”

Thousands of classrooms in all 50 states enrolled in Disney’s Planet Challenge, which is just in its first year as a national program. Since fall 2009, classes across the nation have been hard at work on environmental projects of their choosing. They spent months collecting data, conducting field research, coming up with solutions for problems, promoting community involvement and documenting their efforts along the way.

“It was such a tough decision for our judging committee to make. So many of the projects submitted exhibited environmental solutions grounded in science and teamwork,” said Dr. Beth Stevens, senior vice president, Environmental Affairs for The Walt Disney Company. “Mrs. Schnedler’s class submission for ‘Operation: Save the Quail’ went above and beyond in demonstrating a dedication to understanding the environmental impacts of actions and initiating real-life change that they can be proud of.”

Winners were chosen by a judging committee made up of scientists, environmental experts and educators including representatives from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and WestEd K-12 Alliance. State and regional winners will be announced this week on the program web site www.disney.com/planetchallenge.

Mrs. Schnedler’s class, located in a small rural community in Iowa, focused on saving the Northern Bobwhite Quail population for their project. The waning quail population – due to harsh weather and decreased prairie land – is a significant environmental issue facing Des Moines County. To restore the quails’ natural habitat, students collected information through computer research and field work. With the help of community members, the class restored acres of existing conservation space in Luckenbill Woods by conducting a controlled burn to prepare the land and replanting native vegetation that will benefit local quails, promote diversity of wildlife and help to control soil erosion. Furthering their efforts, the students wrote to the local Pheasants Forever chapter, which fulfilled a request to help fund the project. Their dedication will make it possible for future 6th grade classes to continue the work and nurture the new land.

The winning class will be honored in a recognition ceremony and parade at Disneyland® on May 7th, 2010, and featured on Disney Channel as youth environmental leaders. Regional and state winners will receive classroom grants, Disney prize packages, NSTA memberships and more.

Disney’s Planet Challenge promotes project-based learning and provides tailored lesson plans customized to reflect the curriculum standards of each state and grade level (grades 4-6). In recognition of tightening classroom budgets and the increasing importance of environmental science education, Disney’s Planet Challenge also offered a grant matching initiative with DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that connects individual “citizen philanthropists” with classrooms in need.

Disney’s Planet Challenge for the classroom, together with Disney’s Friends for Change: Project Green for everyday life, are cornerstones of Disney’s focus to provide the youth of today with the knowledge and resources to positively impact the environment for future generations.

Disney’s Planet Challenge enrollment for the 2010/2011 school year is open now at www.disney.com/planetchallenge and will soon be expanded for middle school classrooms.

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