By now we all know I am THAT homeschool mom. I weigh every activity on an educational basis. There is a cost-benefit analysis in my head following every request. My girls just asked to go ice skating with some friends. Click, click, buzz, buzz. Three hours away from school work, exercise benefiting body, social interaction, activity forcing cross-hemisphere brain workout, discount tickets = permission granted. So why write about Universal Studios?
It should come as no surprise that, win annual passes this year, I am looking for the educational benefits at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I thoroughly analyzed the Disney parks awhile back. I found quite a bit of educational value there. But Universal was a little tougher. Okay, a lot tougher. But never fear, I have found enough educational material to justify at least one day of field trip fun!
My top pick for an educational experience at Universal Studios is Animal Actors on Location! It is an adorable show and really makes you think about the training involved in having just about any animal in a movie or TV show. Encourage to the kids to ask specific questions of the trainers that meet you up front after the show for photo opportunities. Ask little ones to name all of the animals along with you.
The second most education use of Universal Studios is a visit to Harry Potter’s world: Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, as a reward for reading all of the Harry Potter books. My kids like to point out all of the place where the theme park got it right and the places where they loosely interpreted the books. This is real proof of reading comprehension! Have them look up picture of the real King’s Cross Station in London and research some of the strange sounding British foods.
A real shopping treat is Williams of Hollywood. It is a movie themed vintage store with real antiques for sale, right in the middle of the park. There is nothing like touching history, and it can be done right here. And speaking of history, The Mummy ride is set in the 1930s. Ask the kids why they think that setting was chosen. What big discovery piqued world wide interest in Egypt in the 1920s?
Islands of Adventure has a whole area based on the books of Dr. Seuss – Seuss Landing. Make sure you read “The Cat in the Hat”, “The Lorax”, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” and other Seuss classics before you go. And before you leave, check out the All The Books You Can Read shop for a new favorite to bring home. Look for the figure of Theodor Geisel in a photo spot. Universal’s blog has some other fun facts and Seuss book references to look for throughout that section of the park. Then practice Seuss’s art by creating your own outrageous rhymes.
Finally, the Jurassic Park Discovery Center offers us some fun and interesting information on dinosaurs. Even though it is fake, the velociraptor hatching is fun to watch. It helps immerse kids in the “imagine what it was like” experience. Just seeing the enormous T. Rex skeleton replica helps give little ones an idea of the massive size of this creature. Ask them to imagine this guy wandering around his neighborhood. What would happen? Then head over to the Camp Jurassic Park playground and enjoy pretending to be dinosaurs and paleontologists.
Remember to talk about any educational experiences to reinforce them. And a long theme park line is a great place to reminisce about favorite family trips and to share your own childhood vacation memories. Kids love to hear those stories and it helps them get to know you in ways that might surprise them. Just have some fun together while you are learning!
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