Spaceship Earth

This is one attraction you simply cannot miss. Literally. Spaceship Earth is the giant, 180 foot tall geosphere that is so iconic to Epcot. (Did you know that science fiction author Ray Bradbury helped design it?) The attraction inside it is a slow-moving ride through the evolution of communication and technology, from the dawn of civilization to our modern age.

IMG_4740 IMG_4741

Dame Judi Dench narrates as you pass by scenes depicting ancient Egyptians pounding papyrus for paper, Romans spreading information by their system of roads, and monks copying religious and secular texts in the Dark Ages. We learn that communication and learning really took off with the invention of the printing press. You’ll see just how quickly humankind raced toward the 20th century with all the new technologies: telephones, film, radio, television, computers.

IMG_4752As you “return to Earth,” you get the chance to explore what technologies might await us in the future. Using a touchscreen in your ride vehicle, you can answer a few questions about your preferences in different areas, such as home, leisure, health, or work. And then, with a bit of Disney magic, you can see exactly what your future might look like!

IMG_4763Spaceship Earth is great for all ages. It’s a classic, and it does provide a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the park. It is dark inside, so that could be a consideration for younger children. However, this is one attraction that really embodies the spirit of Epcot.

FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.1.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.2, SS.5.A.6.3, SS.6.W.2.5, SS.6.W.3.1, SS.6.W.3.14, SS.6.W.3.5, SS.912.W.4.3

Advertisements

Bead Outpost

Walt Disney World is full of interesting, sometimes hidden, educational opportunities. Even shopping can prove to be a chance to learn something new! Next time you wander through Epcot’s World Showcase, be sure to stop by the Outpost mini pavilion to learn about a unique merchandise offering.

IMG_4272The Bead Outpost sells beaded jewelry, but these aren’t ordinary beads. They are made from recycled paper from Walt Disney World maps and other paper material. African artisans roll carefully selected pieces to make each bead. The kiosk provides pictures and information about the process.

IMG_4273 IMG_4276

You can purchase necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more, and feel good about wearing these special pieces. They’re a cool way to recycle and they help support African communities.

FL Sunshine State Visual Arts Standards:
VA.K.H.1.1, VA.K.H.2.2, VA.K.F.2.1, VA.2.C.2.2, VA.2.H.2.2, VA.3.H.2.1, VA.3.F.2.1, VA.68.H.1.3

Mitsukoshi Department Store

The Japan Pavilion at Epcot has something for everyone, from great food to art to peaceful gardens. And, of course, shopping. The Mitsukoshi department store has famously been in existence since 1673, when it was a door-to-door operation selling kimonos. But this isn’t just a shopper’s paradise. You can actually learn some interesting things about Japanese culture here.

IMG_4202The shop has two entrances and spans several rooms. One room showcases (and sells) those famous kimonos. Another displays authentic Japanese snacks and beverages. The brave can purchase and try freeze-dried squid or fish crackers. Yet another section of the store has bonsai trees and books about their care and significance, authentic music, art, and calligraphy.

IMG_4206 IMG_4207 IMG_4209

Japan is a country steeped in spiritualism. As you peruse Mitsukoshi, you’ll see this in the number of lucky charms and talismans available. One of the more interesting designs is the Daruma doll. A display of them explains that these dolls originated out of Zen culture and are used to focus wishes.

IMG_4204Guests can also visit the pearl counter near the east entrance to learn how oysters form pearls. You can choose an oyster and see it shucked to find out if you’ve chosen a pearl. The cast members make a bit of a show out of it, so it’s fun if you happen to catch them at work.

You never know what new things you’ll encounter in the huge Mitsukoshi store. Next time you wander through, keep an eye out for a chance to learn something new!

FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.912.H.1.2, SS.912.H.1.3, SS.912.H.1.4

SPECIAL EDITION: Flower and Garden Festival 2015 – Part 2

Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival is a fantastic annual springtime celebration of the outdoors. There is a lot to explore for guests of all ages from gardening tips to crafts to delicious produce-inspired food and wines. Disney Vacation Education presents this year’s Flower and Garden Festival educational finds in two parts. Part 2 focuses on the Garden Displays.

A big part of the Flower and Garden Festival is the various gardens you’ll find throughout the park. Each one is unique and themed, and most provide an opportunity to learn something new.

IMG_4113 IMG_4127

In Future World, look for gardens big and small that have a focus on learning about plants, animals, and the environment. The Gardener’s Palette garden not only shows which plants work together for sunny and shady spots, but also teaches a bit about the color wheel. Prehistoric Plants shows examples of plants that have been around since dinosaurs walked the earth. The Cactus Road Rally uses interactive flip cards to explain how different desert plants survive. And the Trial Garden shows and explains how certain plants are tested for their ability to grow in Florida and at Epcot.

IMG_4069 IMG_4077 IMG_4071

The Nature Rocks and Backyard Habitat displays show how kids can really get involved in and inspired by nature, encouraging them to get outside and explore. There is also a Health and Healing Garden that has some interesting examples of plants that have been and are still used in medicines and herbal treatments.

This year there are two awesome wildlife displays – the new Purple Martins display and the popular Butterfly Garden. As the beautiful purple martins fly around you, you can learn more about their habits and their habitat, how they help your garden, and how you can play host to them in your own yard. The Butterflies on the Go Garden is a fun spot to take in the beauty of butterflies and to learn more about different species, their life cycle, and migration. This is also a favorite spot for photographers.

IMG_4074 IMG_4107

Throughout World Showcase you’ll find even more themed gardens. Some favorites that have an educational twist are the Pepper Fire Garden in Mexico that shows different varieties of hot peppers, and the Pollinator’s Paradise garden in United Kingdom that tells how bees and other pollinators do their important work. The new Shakespeare Garden in United Kingdom is also fun for older students who might be reading Shakespeare. You can read some famous flora-related quotes and match up the real flowers to the quotes.

As you can tell, there’s a lot to take in and Epcot’s Garden Displays have something for everyone. They’re beautiful, relaxing, impressive, and educational. Be sure to spend some time wandering through and reading up on all that nature has to offer!

SPECIAL EDITION: Flower and Garden Festival 2015 – Part 1

Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival is a fantastic annual springtime celebration of the outdoors. There is a lot to explore for guests of all ages from gardening tips to crafts to delicious produce-inspired food and wines. Disney Vacation Education presents this year’s Flower and Garden Festival educational finds in two parts. Part 1 focuses on the Festival Center.

The Festival Center is housed in the former Wonders of Life Pavilion, tucked between Universe of Energy and Mission Space. Here you’ll find guest lectures and presentations by renowned figures in the gardening and landscaping world, as well as Disney Horticulturalists and representatives from University of Florida to help answer your gardening questions.

IMG_4085The Greenhouse Stage presents speakers who offer tips and usually a take-home craft or planting. These sessions fill up quickly, so be sure to check the Times Guide and get in line early. At the Fresh Epcot Stage you can find presentations that range from gardening to outdoor entertaining. The Spotlight Stage is where you can listen to and ask questions of representatives from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. These talks are usually geared toward Florida specific living and conditions. No matter which presentation you attend, you’re sure to come away learning something new.

As you make your way through the Festival Center, you’ll also find tables set up for various local organizations, such as the Audubon Society, Bonsai Club, and Simple Living Institute. We watched a fascinating demonstration of Ikibana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. The experts are there to answer them, and many have helpful handouts you can take home.

IMG_4082A film about the making of the Flower and Garden Festival and an exhibit about Disney Horticulture round out the offerings. Be sure to spend some time in the exhibit. It shows the evolution of horticulture at Walt Disney World, how they make those iconic topiaries, and some pretty neat facts about the diversity of plant life throughout Walt Disney World. You can also read about all the different jobs that Disney Horticulturalists do to make the parks and resorts look the way they do.

IMG_4084  IMG_4089

IMG_4086

It’s easy to spend a few hours in the Festival Center. Presentations at each stage occur twice a day and the experts are there until 5:00pm. Each weekend offers something new and is usually themed, so check back throughout the Festival to learn new stuff!

Palais du Cinéma

The France Pavilion is one of the more immersive pavilions in Epcot’s World Showcase. The beautiful buildings, fountains, winding alleys, and delicious bakery smells make you feel like you really are in some quaint French village or hidden corner of the City of Light.

IMG_4001As you head into the pavilion, you will see the Palais du Cinéma, which is home to the film Impressions de France. The 18-minute film is a delight to watch and listen to, with its staggering views of France and beautiful musical score. But before you even enter the theatre, there is plenty to see and learn in the waiting area.

A small gallery toward the front of the waiting area showcases four distinct collections of information about the famous Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. Each collection highlights one aspect of art in architecture: Gargoyles and Chimeras, the Western Façade, Rose Windows, and Flying Buttresses. There are even some replicas of gargoyles, including the famous “Spitting Gargoyle” that was cast from the original in France.

IMG_4003 IMG_4005

Read through the placards and you’ll learn some interesting facts. Why were the statues on the Western Façade beheaded during the French Revolution? What is a flying buttress anyway? And how many Rose Windows did stonecutters and glaziers actually attempt to make?

IMG_4009 IMG_4010

You don’t have to watch the film to experience the gallery, but it does make for a relaxing break. Next time you’re stopping by France for an éclair, step inside the Palais du Cinéma to learn a thing or two about one of France’s most famous landmarks.

 

STEM Topic: Engineering
Florida Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:

SS.912.W.2.17
Florida Sunshine State Visual Arts Standards:
VA.4.H.1.1, VA.5.H.1.1, VA.68.H.1.1, VA.912.H.1.1, VA.912.H.1.9

Living with the Land

The Land is one of the most popular pavilions in Future World. It’s home to Soarin’, which remains one of the busiest attractions on Walt Disney World property, and two terrific dining options. But many guests also really enjoy the Living with the Land attraction, with good reason.

Living with the Land rarely has a very long wait, and it’s full of fun scenery and interesting information. The boat ride begins with a tour through several ecosystems. You’ll learn how water and nutrients reach the soil, and how different life forms thrive in such different landscapes.

The boat ride continues with a description of farming practices around the world and a look into future concepts for growing food. As you travel into the greenhouses, you’ll see dozens of plant species growing all around you. Some are grown with some pretty cool techniques. (How can a plant grow with no soil?!) And a lot of the fish, fruits, and vegetables in the greenhouses end up in those terrific dining locations we mentioned. Talk about fresh!

Living Land7 Living Land11

Living with the Land is a great way to spark the discussion about where our food comes from and the farm-to-table movement. Kids and adults will be wowed by what Disney horticulturists can grow right in the heart of Epcot.

Living Land5 Living Land8

 

STEM Topic: Science, Technology, Engineering
FL Sunshine State Science Standards:
SC.K.L.14.3, SC.1.L.14.2, SC.1.L.17.1, SC.2.L.17.2, SC.3.L.14.1, SC.3.L.14.2, SC.3.L.17.2, SC.4.L.17.4, SC.5.L.17.1, SC.7.L.17.1