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Learning at Disney: Ways to Sneak “School” into Your Disney World Vacation


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Written by Chelsea Gonzales of Wonder Wherever We Wander.

Many may consider a trip to Walt Disney World a time to relax and take a break from school. However, on my family’s recent trip to the happiest place on Earth, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before: Disney World is a giant classroom.

Learning at Disney

If you are planning a trip to Disney World and would like to take full advantage of the fantastic learning environment that awaits you—and get away with calling your vacation a “field trip”—keep reading. I have compiled a list of fun learning activities and great opportunities, located on Disney World property, to begin a dialogue with your child.

Take this list and run with it, add to it, and make it your own.

Math

Spending money. To avoid the “I wants” and to help teach your children budgeting, bill/coin values, and self-discipline, give each person in your family a bit of spending money to manage on their own.

Wait times. Long wait times at Disney can be useful for something after all! Use the estimated wait times as conversation starters to help young children understand time.

History

Tom Sawyer’s Island. Read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and discuss the book as a family before your trip. This will make a visit to Tom Sawyer’s Island much more fun and meaningful.

Liberty Square. Discuss and find the Liberty Bell and Paul Revere’s two lanterns in an upstairs window while visiting Liberty Square. Also, be sure to see the Hall of Presidents show for a fun history lesson.

Disney 1

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Use your time in line for this ride to discuss the history of coal mines and the (very real and very serious) meanings behind some of the queue distractions, such as the canary and the many references to funerals.

Carousel of Progress. On this attraction, learn about the many exciting ways our day-to-day lives have changed since the turn of the 20th century.

Pirates of the Caribbean. Discussion of the history of pirates and the facts about them would be a perfect addition to a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean.

Epcot countries. Every country pavilion in the Epcot World Showcase has a small history lesson to offer about that particular country.

The Great Movie Ride. The Great Movie Ride is the perfect way to introduce young children to the many Hollywood legends we know and love.

One Man’s Dream. This mini-museum is located in Hollywood Studios and is a fun way to learn about the man behind the magic, Walt Disney himself.

Science

Living With The Land. A great lesson on taking care of the environment and our ecosystem, this is an educational ride through the gardens of Epcot.

Circle of Life. Another eco-educational attraction, this short video feature is a great way to show children the importance of caring for the Earth.

Spaceship Earth. A dark ride that travels through time and shows riders all of the incredible technological advances the human race has made throughout the years, Spaceship Earth is a must-ride when visiting Epcot.

Learning at Disney

Test Track. This ride gives guests a chance to design their own vehicle and see how it stands up to the rigors of the test track.

Mission Space. Get a feel for what it’s like to take off in a rocket ship as you blast off on Mission Space.

Innoventions. This children’s museum-like space in Epcot’s Future World offers lessons on subjects like fire safety, roller coaster design, and health.

Kilimanjaro Safari. Check out some amazing animals and learn some fascinating facts as you travel through various habitats in a large safari truck.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Learn more about your favorite animals and how to care for them at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

Disney 2

The Dinosaur Ride. While much of this ride is fictional, there are plenty of dino fact gems to be found. Pay attention during the ride and while standing in the line queue.

Wilderness Explorers. Join the Wilderness Explorers in Animal Kingdom to learn some amazing things about animals and nature. Kids can earn badges while they’re at it!

Geography

Adventureland. Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom features landscapes from a few very different parts of the world. Discuss with your child the possible origins of these views.

Soarin’ Around the World. The Soarin’ ride in Epcot takes you on an incredible hang-gliding adventure around the world.

Epcot countries. The countries in the World Showcase also offer some fantastic geography lessons.

Visit Animal Kingdom. Visit Animal Kingdom and discuss Africa and Asia and the incredible history and culture found in each.

Have you been to Disney? What are some of your favorite learning opportunities there?

 

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13 Comments

  1. Since the time my boys were 5/6 or so we started buying them Disney gift cards and putting them in charge of their own souvenirs. They learned quickly how to budget their money and wait for something they truly wanted. My boys love learning bout the various countries and seeing their names written in all the languages at the Kidcot stops. I have always counted our Disney trips as days of school since we do learn so much. Just being in Florida and seeing all the unusual plant and animal life is a great science lesson! Wonderful post; pinned!

  2. I was only at Disney World once, but unfortunately I only had one child at the time and didn’t take him with because he was only 2, and I was dancing there. You are so right about the learning opportunities! Epcot is just one huge geography lesson. I would love to visit there again with this list in hand. You’ve made some awesome suggestions!

  3. Yes! I’m so glad someone else feels the same! We went last year and I geeked out at all the ripe educational opportunities– especially at Epcot! (my fave, by a landslide) Now you’ve got me hankering to go back! I sure wish we lived closer or CA had an Epcot…

    1. I love Epcot! The last time we went, my husband and son groaned at the thought of spending the day in the Showcase of Worlds, but it sounded wonderful to me and my girls – so we sent the boys to another park and we spend the better part of the day meandering around the world. 🙂

  4. There is a lot that can be learned from Disney. In fact, we have a HUGE homeschool group here in Central Florida that is dedicated to Disney homeschooling. Not kidding. Everyone is required to have passes because they go so many times per week.

    1. Michelle, we have made plans to be in central Florida for the majority of about 4 months this winter. I’d love more info on this group of you have it.

    2. Hi, I just came across your comment & would love more info on the group. We are switching to homeschooling. Thanks!

    3. Hi, Ladies! My daughter checked out the group. She says they don’t bother with actually making the the trips educational. She’s decided to try and put together a Disney curriculum herself. Maybe it’ll be in her blog one day. Meanwhile, search for “Disney homeschool” on Facebook to find the groups.

  5. I am thrilled to read this article! We are HUGE believers that the world is a classroom and that includes fun places like Disney. Who says learning only takes place in boring or dull spots? Seriously!!!

    This summer we took our first Disney cruise. Husband was sadly cooped up almost the entire trip in the room on conference calls with work so the kids and I did the whole thing solo. What an adventure. There was so much learning that doesn’t fall into a neat typical school ‘category’. How about learning how to greet people like the servers at meal times? How about feeling independent and going into the kids’ area alone? How about figuring out how the hand washing machines worked? (They were very car wash like and awesome!) How about working on attention to detail skills and noticing all the thematic details in the restaurants? (Even the bread baskets looked like little Cinderella carriages and the butter knives were shaped like paint brushes!) I FIRMLY believe that the entire world is a classroom!!

    We always read about destinations before we go on a trip and I’ve created destination specific reading lists. This helps give kids background knowledge before they go and helps the learning ‘stick’. How sad are the people who go on large tours and think, “It is Tuesday so it must be Germany.” and then come home and are unable to identify their photos!! Not educational travelers!! We read about pirates and learned that sand is a size…not a rock type.

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