Disney’s Planet Challenge™ (DPC) is a FREE, highly-acclaimed, project-based, environmental competition for elementary and middle school students all across the United States. The program inspires students to be good stewards of the environment and empowers them to make a difference in their school, at home and in their local communities. All of these goals are achieved, while teaching kids about science, conservation and positive ways to impact the planet.
To make this happen, teachers are given the resources to create a standards-based curriculum that speaks to the hearts, minds, and hands of children. This curriculum engages students with a real world environmental issue and encourages teachers and students to work together as a team in researching, managing and solving this issue. Over the course of this long-term project, students have the opportunity to develop problem-solving and decision-making skills, as well as skills necessary for teamwork, cooperation and community engagement. The students further build confidence and self-esteem, while also improving their local environments, themselves and the world around them.
- Students identify an environmental issue in their local community and design a solution that they manage and document from start to finish. Past projects have ranged from implementing campus wide recycling programs and electronics recycling drives, to the protection of local habitats.
- Each participating class develops a portfolio for evaluation. Projects are evaluated by a panel of experts on environmental-relevance, student learning, changes in practices and attitudes, community involvement, lasting benefits to students, school and/or community, and originality. A rubric has been developed to measure all projects evenly and fairly.
With lessons tailored to state standards, DPC can be used to either enhance or replace a teacher’s mandated curriculum. All subjects can be explored: science (environmental studies), language arts (reading while researching), writing/editing (grant, letter and journal writing), oral language skills (presentations, plays, conferences), social studies (historical impacts of issue on local land and native people), math (fund-raising, graphs and data analysis), and visual and performing arts (artwork, plays and informational displays).
PROJECT-BASED LEARNING (PBL):
The principles of PBL include strong academic themes, student-centered work, hands-on learning, and cooperation all combined into a multi-disciplinary curriculum. Through this teaching methodology, students do not only learn information, but they also learn the skills necessary for ongoing and individualized learning. In other words, they learn the skills needed for research practices, skills that lead to the development of unique answers and aid with a life-long pursuit of knowledge.
- Bonds the classroom through teamwork
- Keeps students focused
- Empowers students, motivating them and instilling a sense of self-direction
- Reduces lecture time, allowing increased hands-on learning
- Provides time for individualized instruction
DPC was developed in collaboration with the WestEd/K-12 Alliance and the California Department of Education to provide an educationally-sound curriculum complete with a series of learning plans that foster excellence in education. Customized lesson plans have been developed for every state incorporating specific state and federal standards and guidelines.
DPC is collaborating with the National Science Teachers Association to ensure that the program continues to foster excellence in science education.
The project-based learning model of DPC has been developed with help from WestEd/K-12 Alliance to achieve regional curriculum standards in an effective and engaging manner.
To achieve the highest in environmental standards, Disney has also worked closely with the US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish & Wildlife Service, California Environmental Protection Agency, California Natural Resources Agency, California Department of Food & Agriculture, California Regional Environmental Education Community and the National Audubon Society.