Disney’s Planet Challenge (DPC) Elementary School program is a FREE project-based environmentally-focused national competition for 3rd-5th grade students (for grades 6-8 see DPC Middle School). Designed in conjunction with NSTA and WestEd/K-12 Alliance, DPC is a unique chance for teachers to blend standards-based content, critical thinking skills, and environmental principles in a class project that moves students from awareness to action for a positive impact on their community.
The Class Project builds on sound scientific understanding, and integrates English/language arts, and mathematics, while providing opportunities to incorporate technology and the visual and performing arts. Teachers enroll their class in DPC; however, it is the students who initiate, develop and implement all parts of the project. Research indicates that this type of interactive, collaborative, student-centered environment makes learning meaningful for all students.
DPC addresses several of NSTA’s declarations that environmental education programs should: 1) foster observation, investigation, experimentation, discovery and innovation; 2) provide interdisciplinary, multicultural, and multi-perspective viewpoints to promote awareness and understanding of environmental issues, potential solutions and ways to prevent emerging environmental crises; 3) strive to present a balance of environmental, economic, and social perspectives; and 4) foster critical thinking, recognizing and avoiding bias regarding what to think about the issue.
Who can enroll?
Any individual 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade teacher or team of teachers. 2nd Grade classrooms can participate if in combination with a 3rdh grade class. While science is emphasized, interdisciplinary subjects are highly encouraged.
DPC is an integral part of academic learning. Therefore a class is defined as an academic core class. After school clubs (limited to students in grades 3, 4, or 5 or any combination thereof — and grade 2 if there are also students from grade 3, 4, or 5) can compete as long as the club is an integral part of the regular classroom curriculum. Please refer to the DPC Scoring Rubric.
DPC endorses project-based learning for ALL students and encourages projects designed by students who represent the full demographics of the school. A class of no more than 60 students may design and submit a project. If there are multiple projects from one school, all projects may be submitted to compete in Disney's Planet Challenge.
Students select an environmental issue that they can research and investigate and on which they can take local action. A class project usually takes 2-5 months to complete. The completed project is submitted as a DPC hard copy or digital portfolio, which documents the goals, experiences, student and teacher reflections, and artifacts of the work.
Tier One — State:
Involves the submission of the project as a hard copy or digital portfolio. A team of educators including science teachers, coordinators, and scientists judge and score each portfolio using the scoring rubric. Top ranked state entries that score 80% or higher are eligible to be a state winner and might move forward to the national judging (a total of 20 projects). All projects not selected as a state winner or that do not move forward will be recognized for their participation in DPC.
Tier Two — National:
Involves the top 20 projects from Tier One. A national panel of educators and personnel from environmental agencies uses the DPC scoring rubric to rank and determines the grand prize, second, third and fourth place winners.