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Fast Facts about Disney's Planet Challenge

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

What is Disney's Planet Challenge?

Disney's Planet Challenge is a free, project-based environmental and science competition for grades 3-8 that encourages students to make a difference in their schools, their communities and at home.

Disney's Planet Challenge offers budding scientists the chance to use their imagination and creativity to help the planet while giving educators a fresh new way to motivate students with the help of an educationally sound curriculum that meets national and state guidelines.


What makes Disney's Planet Challenge educationally sound?

From the start, the program's curriculum was developed with West Ed K-12 Alliance, a professional development organization dedicated to fostering excellence in education. The alliance ensures that our program aligns with regional content standards in language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and visual and performing arts. Now that the competition is nationwide, we also collaborate with the National Science Teachers Association on standards.

What is the history of the program?

The program was launched in California in 1994 as "Jiminy Cricket's Environmentality Challenge" and expanded to Florida in 1996. It was also held in the Cayman Islands and Hong Kong. The elementary school program was rolled out nationally last year and was met with unprecedented response— thousands of classrooms enrolled from all 50 states. Building on that success, Disney's Planet Challenge is expanding to include a middle school competition this year.

What kind of projects do students work on?

Projects have ranged from campus-wide renewable energy projects and composting 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 opportunity to develop problem-solving skills and build confidence and self-esteem as they take action to improve the environment. Teachers document progress and ensure that lesson plans align with regional content standards.

Why did Disney launch Disney's Planet Challenge?

Ever since Walt Disney expressed his commitment to the conservation of nature more than 60 years ago, our company has sought to be a good steward of the environment. Disney 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 that regard.