Disney's Planet Challenge makes it easy for teachers to align class projects with state and national curriculum standards. The DPC website links to every state's requirements, as well as lesson plans for particular grades in particular states.
"The lesson plans are a big help for teachers who might think they don't have enough time to participate with all the things they're required to teach," said Breigh Rainey, whose class won the grand prize for elementary schools.
Subjects that can be incorporated into a project include: science (environmental studies), language arts (reading while researching), writing/editing (grant, letter and journal writing), oral language (presentations, conferences), social studies (historical impacts on local land and people), math (fundraising, graphs, data analysis) and visual/performing arts (artwork, plays, informational displays).
"We never felt we had to do something extra. It always felt like part of our curriculum," Rainey's colleague Kristy Gilpin said. "Our children got math, science, social studies and language arts out of it."
Disney's Planet Challenge curriculum was developed with West Ed K-12 Alliance. When the contest went national, organizers began collaborating with the National Science Teachers Association.
Teachers also have access to evaluation rubrics, which are available online and help them track achievement goals as they relate to standards.
"The Disney site was very helpful," said Fran Wachter, whose students won the grand prize for middle schools. "And our project showed how science doesn't stand alone. It is connected to math, social studies, language arts, even public speaking.