Disney’s Planet Challenge Kicks Off Year Two, Expands To Middle Schools

BURBANK, Calif — September 14, 2010 — Disney today announced the kickoff of the second annual Disney’s Planet Challenge, a free, project-based environmental and science competition for classrooms nationwide. The response to Disney’s Planet Challenge last year was unprecedented, with thousands of classrooms enrolled from all 50 states. That success has prompted new program elements for year two including:

  • Expansion to additional grade levels with an all new middle school track

  • A new level of collaboration with DonorsChoose.org to help classrooms cover the costs of class projects — with an added focus on educators in the Gulf region

  • A new online video series that will help engage classrooms as they embark on the educational adventure of a lifetime that could result in a trip to Disneyland® Resort

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 requirements. Last year, a 6th grade class from Mediapolis, Iowa took top honors with a project that focused on saving the quail population in their local community.

Special Disney prizes will be granted to national and state winners. Participation is free, and enrollment is open now through December 17 at www.disney.com/planetchallenge. For the project, students identify an environmental issue in their local community and design a solution they manage from start to finish. Past projects from the elementary competition range from campus-wide renewable energy projects to protection of local habitats.

“It is our goal to inspire a sense of environmental stewardship in kids as the inheritors of our planet, and education is a critical component of that,” said Beth Stevens, senior vice president of Environmental Affairs, The Walt Disney Company. “Building off the success of our first year, we are thrilled to expand the reach of Disney’s Planet Challenge and offer more tools and resources that educators can draw from.”

Expansion to Middle Schools
Middle school students now have the opportunity 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 young people. Formerly open to 4th through 6th grade classrooms, Disney’s Planet Challenge is being expanded to include two tracks: one for elementary schools grades 3-5, and another for middle schools grades 6-8. The middle school curriculum will offer an increased focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.

New Funding Options with DonorsChoose.org
For teachers who may need help funding their projects, Disney is again working with DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that connects individual “citizen philanthropists” with classrooms in need.

Disney is providing a $250,000 grant to DonorsChoose.org that will in part be applied towards a “Double Your Impact” matching offer on its website, which will fund 50% of the cost of environmental science classroom projects for Disney’s Planet Challenge. This funding is matched by individual donors visiting the DonorsChoose.org site. A portion of Disney’s grant will also provide funding specifically for educators in the Gulf region whose projects meet specific criteria. For more information about eligibility, deadlines and funding limits, visit www.disney.com/planetchallenge.

Spreading the Word
To help increase awareness and create a sustaining community of learners, Disney’s Planet Challenge is launching a new video series that will feature two types of videos every month: “The Newsfeed” and “Imagine Your Planet.”

“The Newsfeed” videos focus on updates from the Disney’s Planet Challenge newsroom, including environmental news from around the world as well as tutorials on getting the most out of the Disney’s Planet Challenge website. With “Imagine Your Planet,” Disney’s Planet Challenge goes into classrooms across the country, following students on their mission to create a better planet. The videos also will highlight former students that had participated in Disney’s Planet Challenge as they continue their project beyond the classroom.

A Rewarding Experience
Adding to the education and sense of pride students will have working on their projects, Disney offers special prizes to national and state winners. The national grand prize winning elementary school class will enjoy a celebration at Disneyland and middle school national grand prize winners will earn a $20,000 grant for their school. Additionally, both grand prize-winning classrooms will be illustrated and appear within a Marvel comic book.

Built on a Solid Educational Foundation
Disney collaborates with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the WestEd K-12 Alliance as well as state and federal agencies to develop curriculums that meet all state education standards. Disney has also worked closely with the U.S. and California Environmental Protection Agencies, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the California Department of Education to ensure the highest environmental standards.

About Disney’s Planet Challenge
Disney’s Planet Challenge is a project-based environmental competition for 3rd — 8th grade classrooms that empowers students to make a difference in school, at home and in their local communities. With more than 15 years of experience running highly-acclaimed classroom environmental competitions in regional markets including California and Florida (as “Disney’s Environmentality Challenge™”), The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) developed the new Disney’s Planet Challenge in response to growing demand across all 50 states. Program collaborations with the National Science Teachers Association, the WestEd K-12 Alliance, the U.S. and California Environmental Protection Agencies, the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife and the California Department of Education ensure academic and environmental excellence. National, regional and state winners will receive an array of Disney prizes including a class celebration at Disneyland® Resort for the national grand prize elementary school champion. Participation in the program is free and enrollment is open at www.disney.com/planetchallenge.

About UL Environment
UL Environment is a full-service environmental solutions company. UL Environment is helping support the growth and development of sustainable products, services and companies in the global marketplace through standards development, independent third-party assessment, certification and knowledge services. UL Environment is a wholly owned subsidiary of Underwriters Laboratories, a global leader in conformity assessment that has been testing products and writing standards for more than a century. UL currently collaborates with Disney on the Wild About Safety® and SafetySmart® educational video series, teaching tools and parks safety programs. For more please visit www.ulsafetysmart.com orwww.disney.com/safety. More information on UL Environment is available at www.ulenvironment.com.

About NSTA
The Arlington, VA-based National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA’s current membership includes more than 60,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.

About DonorsChoose.org
DonorsChoose.org is a nonprofit website that connects teachers in need with individuals who want to help. Public school teachers post classroom project requests on DonorsChoose.org ranging from pencils for a poetry writing unit, to violins for a school recital. DonorsChoose.org was pioneered by a Bronx high school teacher, Charles Best, in 2000. Since then, residents of 50 states and 10 countries have funded over 140,000 classroom projects, channeling more than $57 million in resources to 3.5 million students.

Additional Details for Educators:

Teachers, submit your environmental project to DonorsChoose.org (if you don’t already have an account, visitwww.donorschoose.org/teachers) to qualify for the special promotions. To be eligible, you must be a 3rd to 8th grade public school teacher and your submitted project should be environmental in nature. The system will recognize your eligibility. Funding will activate automatically to bring your project to life when other donors choose to join in and fund the rest of the project.