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Helping Classrooms Through

For students who live along the Gulf of Mexico, the environmental damage from the oil spill is anything but abstract. It's something that has lapped onto local beaches and leached into fragile estuaries.

To help classes explore the potential fallout from the spill and the importance of protecting natural habitats, and Disney's Planet Challenge are teaming up for a promotion to aid Gulf schools. More details will be available this fall.

The promotion builds on an existing partnership between and Disney to boost school projects with an environmental theme throughout the United States. A New York-based nonprofit organization, was founded a decade ago by Charles Best, a Bronx high school teacher who had grown frustrated by limited school funding and scarce supplies.

Best's solution: Allow donors to contribute to a well-defined classroom project or need, so they can know precisely how their money was spent and the students it benefited. It's proven to be a winning formula—donors helped fund 34,000 teacher-submitted projects through the nonprofit last year, putting books, technology, classroom supplies and other learning opportunities directly into the hands of students.

All classroom projects are reviewed by, which posts a description of the classroom and resources needed on its website, along with an itemized budget and up-to-date information on contributions. Once the funding goal is reached, the nonprofit purchases the materials and ships them directly to the class. Teachers then post photos and updates about project activities, and students send thank-you notes to donors.

Disney's Planet Challenge matches donations for projects with an environmental theme meeting Disney's Planet Challenge criteria. Last year, Disney provided half the requested funds for 306 projects involving 52,672 students. One example: A worm composting project for a Chicago elementary school that will use organic material from the lunchroom to help improve garden soil around the building. Disney's Planet Challenge picked up $132 of the $264 cost.


<a href="">Iowa sixth graders win Disney's 2009 Planet Challenge</a>

<a href="">Operation: Save the Quail</a>

<a href="">Disney introduces 2010-2011 Planet Challenge</a>

<a href="">List of 2010 Winners and Runners Up</a>