Way back in September we announced a partnership with Disney’s Planet Challenge - a project-based learning environmental competition for 4th – 6th grade classrooms across the country. As part of this nationwide challenge, Disney offered 50% funding to DonorsChoose.org projects that engaged students to save the planet. Teachers in 37 states submitted projects (306 projects to be exact) and individual donors matched Disney’s generosity so that 52,672 students had the materials and resources to start making a difference in the environment. But that was just on DonorsChoose.org.Back over on Disney’s Planet Challenge website, teachers were invited to submit the results of their projects for a chance to win a class trip to Disneyland. Thousands of classrooms registered and spent months collecting data, conducting field research, coming up with solutions for problems, promoting community involvement and documenting their efforts along the way.A judging committee made up of scientists, environmental experts and educators including representatives from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and WestEd K-12 Alliance poured over project submissions and last month announced a winning classroom: Mrs. Julie Schnedler’s sixth grade Mediapolis Community School class for their project ‘Operation: Save the Quail.’Just a few weeks ago, Mrs. Schnedler’s class visited Disneyland for a recognition ceremony that featured a formal presentation of their award in the park where the class was serenaded by Disney characters. If that wasn't cool enough, the class got to ride on a float in a parade down Main Street! This, after an exciting morning that included a question and answer session with the Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, the VP of ESPN Global X Games Franchise, a Senior Scientist, Pixar Animation Studios, and a Director from the US Environmental Protection Agency.And what, you may ask, did Mrs. Schnedler’s class do to deserve these accolades and special treatment? How about saving saving the Northern Bobwhite Quail population in their hometown of Mediapolis, Iowa? The class took on a this daunting project after they discovered that the waning quail population – due to harsh weather and decreased prairie land – was a significant environmental issue facing Des Moines County.To restore the quail's natural habitat, students collected information through computer research and field work. With the help of community members, the class restored acres of existing conservation space in Luckenbill Woods by conducting a controlled burn to prepare the land and then replanting native vegetation to benefit local quail, promote diversity of wildlife and help to control soil erosion. Furthering their efforts, the students wrote to the local Pheasants Forever chapter, which fulfilled a request to help fund the project. Their dedication will make it possible for future 6th grade classes to continue the work and nurture the new land.It was tremendous to see all the projects submitted for Disney’s Planet Challenge, and we tip our hats to Mrs. Schnedler’s sixth grade class. Well done! (And, oh yeah, thanks for riding Space Mountain with this lady from DonorsChoose.org who may have screamed the whole time.)
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