Lipscomb Academy third graders win first place in Tennessee in Disney’s Planet Challenge
By Kim Chaudoin on 3/29/2012
The elementary school at Lipscomb Academy (formerly David Lipscomb Elementary School) third-graders have earned first-place honors in Tennessee as part of Disney’s Planet Challenge. Disney’s Planet Challenge (DPC) Elementary School program is a project-based environmentally-focused national competition for third- through fifth-grade students across the country. First-place winners in each state will receive $1,000 and individual student gifts from The Walt Disney Company.
For their project, Lipscomb’s 61 third-graders developed community awareness of environmentally safe disposal practices of prescription medicine. The project, “Keep our Water Clean; Don’t Rush to Flush,” allowed students to collaborate with Lipscomb University personnel in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and the Department of Biology. The students learned about the production of medication, tested the effects medication can have on soil and water through experiments in the school’s outdoor classroom, developed a plan for informing the public and held a community recycling and drug collection day.
“The Disney Planet Challenge project has given our third-graders not only a great experience in environmental science, but also an understanding of how citizens can affect the world around them, both politically and personally,” said Sharon Farmer, Lipscomb Academy elementary principal. “Our teachers have gone outside the walls of the classroom to offer academic rigor that integrates all subjects, field trips, labs and assignments with a project that can make a difference. I’m proud of their efforts and their achievement.”
Nationwide, 570 elementary schools began the program with 350 completing the process. Lipscomb Academy scored in the top 20 elementary schools in the nation, earning first place in Tennessee. Including the middle school division, 1,900 schools entered the contest nationwide.
Lipscomb third-grade teachers Chuck Chisam, Phyllis Sanders and Kim Smith, along with science lab coordinator Ginger Reasonover, helped students develop their plan from its inception in the fall of 2011. Students developed a plan for informing the public, including handing out flyers at Wal-Mart, visiting local clubs and community groups, posting flyers and advertisements and producing a public service announcement for local television stations. They spearheaded a recycling day at the school, notified the police department to help them properly dispose of medications and collected over 21,768 pills (163 lb.), keeping them from polluting Nashville’s water supply.
To culminate their project, students recently hosted local dignitaries for a meeting at the school where they shared details of their project. Attendees included Sean McGuire, Metropolitan Nashville councilman; Tennessee State Representative Mike Stewart; Lori Munkeboe from the Office of Sustainable Practice, Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation; Sharon Smith, Metro Nashville Public Works; and Det. Michael Donaldson from the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. Students presented their video, original song and pleas for action in regulating the disposal of medications.
“My applause and admiration goes to this group of young students and their ability to understand a complex issue like unwanted pharmaceuticals,” said Munkeboe. “They investigated the problems and made smart decisions on how to recognize and implement solutions. From one-day collections to a public service announcement, their work was thoughtful and targeted. I am more comforted knowing that these young people will protect our state, our country and our earth with the dedication and respect it deserves.”
As a result of that meeting, students were issued an invitation to further inform and influence state and local decision-making bodies.
In 2009, Lipscomb Academy (then David Lipscomb Elementary School) received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Green Schools - K-12. The elementary school has several outstanding elements in their approach to environmental education. One key element was the creation of the outdoor classroom for students, which includes an amphitheater, math patio, a human sundial, weather station, frog pond, birding equipment, rainwater collection system and an area for vegetables, butterflies, and Tennessee native plants.
In addition to providing a publicly available recycling receptacle in their parking lot, the school also recycles plastics, aluminum, paper, cardboard and does its own composting. Since January 2008, 30,000 pounds of mixed recyclables have been collected at Lipscomb and kept out of the landfill. Due to its many accomplishments, the elementary school has achieved Performer Level in the Tennessee Pollution Prevention Program. It was the first K-4 school in Tennessee to attain highest-level Performer status.
To see the third-grader PSA click here.
Disney’s Planet Challenge (DPC)
Designed in conjunction with National Science Teachers Association and WestEd/K-12 Alliance, DPC is a unique chance for teachers to blend standards-based content, critical thinking skills and environmental principles in a class project that moves students from awareness to action for a positive impact on their community. For more information about the challenge, visit http://disney.go.com/planetchallenge/discover.html.
Teachers enroll their class in DPC; however, it is the students who initiate, develop and implement all parts of the project. Research indicates that this type of interactive, collaborative, student-centered environment makes learning meaningful for all students. Students select an environmental issue that they can research and investigate and on which they can take local action. A class project usually takes two-to-five months to complete. The completed project is submitted as a DPC hard copy or digital portfolio, which documents the goals, experiences, student and teacher reflections and artifacts of the work. A list of the 2012 winners is available at this link: http://dpcproject.com/winners2011/StateWinners.aspx?page=3&orderby=state