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Creating the Right Environment for Learning

The National Science Teachers Association is a key collaborator for Disney's Planet Challenge

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) plays an important role in ensuring that Disney's Planet Challenge conforms to rigorous educational standards and appeals to the widest range of teachers and students.

In many ways, the NSTA and Disney are a natural fit. The nonprofit organization's mission is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. Disney's Planet Challenge, meanwhile, is built on student-selected, inquiry- based projects, which allow young people to take scientific concepts and apply them to real-life situations. That kind of initiative is an effective practice that makes for livelier learning and promotes a deeper commitment to stewardship of the environment.

"It helps connect science to the real world," said Francis Eberle, NSTA's executive director. "It shows there is an application of science, and gives students the chance to explore their own ideas."

NSTA is involved in the planning, promoting and administering of the competition, which went from a regional to a national contest last year. The organization distributes materials on the Challenge to its 60,000 members, sends out email blast reminders and discusses the program to the science education community at its annual conference.

"It's a terrific program," Eberle said. "The feedback has been very positive from teachers."

Teachers of classes that place in the top-prize categories this year will receive one-year NSTA memberships. Teachers for the two grand-prize-winning projects will also get expense-paid trips to the NSTA annual conference in 2012.

Other important collaborators for the competition include:

Middle school students now have the opportunity this year to participate in Disney's Planet Challenge thanks to collaboration with UL Environment, with whom Disney has a shared mission to inspire environmental stewardship and education in kids.</li>

The West Ed K-12 Alliance, a nonprofit organization devoted to excellence in math and science education.</li>

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