Disney's Planet Challenge: By kids, for kids—and their world
What is Disney's Planet Challenge? Disney's Planet Challenge is a free, project-based environmental and science competition for students in grades 3-8. Kids identify a local environmental problem, then plan and implement a solution based on their ideas.
Why do kids and teachers love Disney's Planet Challenge? Kids love it because they steer the project with their own style and purpose. Teachers love it because it offers a new and exciting way to motivate students, and it provides a unique hands-on opportunity to meet national and state curriculum standards.
When did Disney's Planet Challenge start, and how has it evolved? Jiminy Cricket's Environmentality Challenge began in 1994 for 5th graders in California. In 2009 the program was offered nationwide to grades 4-6 and renamed Disney's Planet Challenge. In 2010 the program was expanded once more to include its two current tracks: elementary (grades 3-5) and middle school (grades 6-8).
Why should schools participate? First of all, it's fun! It also allows kids to use their voice, imagination and creativity to help the planet. It promotes multi-disciplinary learning with a STEM focus. It fosters cooperation and educated inquiry. Moreover, research shows kids who participate in Disney's Planet Challenge score higher on tests, feel better about themselves and are keenly aware of their personal responsibility to society and the power they have to change it. And did we mention it's fun?
Describe the projects. Students have started composting and recycling programs, planted organic gardens and even restored habitats for endangered species. The common thread is kid-power. Kids decide what to do and manage the project from start to finish. Teachers document progress and ensure curriculum standards are met.
How much time does it take? This is entirely up to students and teachers. You can incorporate multiple curriculum standards as part of a larger venture that lasts the entire school year, or you can complete a smaller-scale project to supplement existing curriculum. Entries are due Feb. 15, 2012, but your project should continue beyond that time and begin preparation for the next class!