Is there educational value to be found in the Happiest Place on Earth? Sure there is! We can school anywhere! Since we have had annual passes several times, we know a little bit about homeschooling through the four Orlando parks. Let’s start with the enduring classic.
The Magic Kingdom! Disney loves to promote Walt’s personal rags to riches through a lot of hard work story. There is a lesson here for young entrepreneurs. There are some fun history facts, plus an old fashioned experience in riding the Walt Disney World Railroad.
In Adventureland, after a ride on Splash Mountain a look at the Brer Rabbit stories is a good literature lesson. The most popular are in the Joe Chandler Harris version. They originated in Africa and took on new settings as they were brought to southern plantations. Take a look at the time period. Compare them to Aesop’s fables. The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse can really only be enjoyed after reading the book. The classic movie is fun to watch, too. But AFTER you read The Swiss Family Robinson aloud as a family. Pirates of the Caribbean is very similar to the real Castillo San Marcos in St. Augustine and is an interesting point of research.
In Frontierland, Tom Sawyer’s Island is hours of fun if you split up and race to an obscure spot, like Jim’s cabin. A family read aloud of Tom Sawyer is a before or after must do. Of course, a relaxing ride on the Liberty Square Riverboat goes right along with the Tom Sawyer theme. While you are in Liberty Square, take a look at the Liberty Tree and it’s 13 lanterns. Research the original liberty tree from 1765. There is also a photo opportunity with the Liberty Bell replica, cast from the mold of the real one. And it doesn’t get any more educational than the Hall of Presidents. The lobby is full of history, so arrive a few minutes before the show to provide some browsing time. Even people who think they don’t care for history enjoy seeing a likeness of every president that we have elected.
Even Fantasyland has some educational value if you are brave enough to read the Hans Christian Andersen versions of The Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Cinderella, before or after riding the Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Prince Charming’s Carousel, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Little ones will enjoy the sanitized Disney versions more, but older children will be eager to discuss the differences. The same holds true for the Grimm Brother’s Beauty and the Beast. The
newer Storytime with Belle is an exciting way to stretch their ability to perform in front of an audience with confidence. Cinderella’s Castle has some beautiful tile mosaics to take a look at as you walk through. Peter Pan’s Flight is obviously related to the book Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, though the images come from the Disney movie. It is a lovely relaxing ride, but always use a fast pass because the line seems to be continually ridiculous. Now, we are huge Winnie-the-Pooh fans around here, but of the brilliant books by A. A. Milne, not the silly Disney version. But the ride might be just the thing to start a family read of the classic books like The House at Pooh Corner. It’s a Small World is a great opportunity to name all of the countries represented based on the costumes and the decor. Fun fact: The United States is represented in only two figures. Can you find them? Leave a comment if you would like a hint! The Mickey’s Philharmagic 4D Show has classical music you may recognize.
A walk through Tomorrowland and a ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority can prompt an interesting discussion of what they thought the future, after 2000, would look like, what has actually changed and what we think it will be like 40 years from now. The Carousel of Progress can fuel that discussion, too – if it is raining outside or your feet need a rest. Although, my kids really like it. I may have seen it 22 times too many.
Mainstreet USA has nostalgic performances to prompt turn of the century culture research. The glass blowing demonstrations are very interesting.
Remember that you can bring your own food, as long as it is not in glass. Do not do everything in one day! Pace yourself. Make careful use of the fastpass. The newest rides typically have longer lines. We are night owls, so we go in the park mid-morning and after dinner the lines are significantly shorter. We love closing out the park.
Any other educational Disney tips out there?
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