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An environmental learning competition from The Walt Disney Company

An interview with Beth Stevens, Ph.D., senior vice president of environmental affairs for The Walt Disney Company

What is Disney Planet Challenge?

Disney Planet Challenge is a project-based environmental competition for students in grades 4-6 that encourages them to make a difference in their schools, in their communities and at home.

What makes Disney Planet Challenge educationally sound?

From the start, the program curriculum was developed with West Ed K-12 Alliance, a professional development organization dedicated to fostering excellence in education. They ensure that our program aligns with regional content standards in language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and visual and performing arts. To continue meeting the highest educational standards as we expand Disney Planet Challenge nationwide, we are collaborating with the National Science Teachers Association.

What is the history of the program?

The program was launched in California in 1994 and expanded to Florida in 1996. It is also held in the Cayman Islands and Hong Kong. This year, for the first time, Disney Planet Challenge will be offered throughout the United States.

What kinds of projects do students work on?

Projects have ranged from school recycling programs, to electronics recycling drives, to the protection of local habitats. In all cases, students work together to come up with a project and manage it from start to finish. It gives them an important opportunity to develop problem-solving skills, and it builds confidence and self-esteem as they take action to improve the environment. The teacher’s role, focused on the educational component, is key to ensuring the content aligns with regional content standards.

Why did The Walt Disney Company launch Disney Planet Challenge?

Ever since Walt Disney expressed his commitment to the conservation of natural resources more than 60 years ago, our company has sought to be a good steward of the environment. The Walt Disney Company is committed to using its influence to inform, empower and foster environmentally responsible behavior. Disney Planet Challenge is one of our most significant initiatives in this area.