Disney’s Planet Challenge (DPC) Middle School program is a FREE project-based environmentally-focused national competition for 6th-8th grade students (for grades 3-5, see DPC Elementary School). The program emphasizes science while integrating other content areas and incorporates 21st century skills including the ability to identify problems connected with human activity, propose solutions based on research and evidence, and apply science in a local context to help solve both local and global concerns.
While teachers enroll their class or classes in DPC, it is the students who initiate, develop and implement all parts of the project. Research indicates that this type of interactive, collaborative, student-centered learning environment provides a meaningful way to make science come alive for students.
DPC addresses several of NSTA’s environmental education declarations that suggest that 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.
Who can enroll?
Any individual 6th, 7th or 8th grade teacher or team of teachers. 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 or elective class. After school clubs can compete as long as the club is an integral part of the regular classroom curriculum and is comprised of students from 6th, 7th, or 8th grades, or a combination of students from any grades 6-8. 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 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 DIGITAL PORTFOLIO ONLY, 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 DPC 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. 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.