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.

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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

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AMC Movie Theater

Downtown Disney is a great place for shopping and dining with the whole family. But there are also some learning opportunities here if you know where to look and your timing is right.

The AMC Movie Theater may not seem like an obvious educational spot. But in addition to the popular popcorn flicks it shows, the theater sometimes screens nature and art films. This is always the place to catch premieres of DisneyNature films, which has included Earth, Oceans, African Cats, Chimpanzee, Bears, and Monkey Kingdom.

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This AMC theater also participates in Metropolitan Opera simulcasts, so you can catch live performances of famous operas straight from New York.

Check out the AMC website for show times and more information.

FL Sunshine State Science Standards:
SC.K.L.14.3, SC.1.L.16.1, SC.1.L.17.1, SC.2.L.17.1, SC.2.L.17.2, SC.3.L.17.1, SC.4.L.16.3, SC.4.L.17.4, SC.5.L.15.1

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

Arribas Brothers – Marketplace

Downtown Disney is a great place for shopping and dining with the whole family. But there are also some hidden learning opportunities here if you know where to look.

Arribas Brothers has locations throughout Walt Disney World, but the stand-alone shop at the Marketplace has an extensive collection of crystal and glassware, collectibles, jewelry, and art. If you’re into sparkles, you’re sure to find something of interest here.

IMG_3992For an educational opportunity, catch one of the glass artists demonstrating their craft. The artists create right in the middle of the store throughout the day. You can witness them making intricate pieces and they will be happy to answer any questions about the materials or tools they use, the process, or even how they got started in the business.

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During our visit, we watched Susan create a glass pendant complete with flowers, leaves, and a butterfly. She showed us how each element is created during different stages of melting.

The artists do some amazing work. Be sure to stop in next time you’re at the Marketplace and find out more about what they do.

 

STEM Topic: Engineering
FL Sunshine State Visual Arts Standards:
VA.K.H.2.2, VA.K.F.1.2, VA.K.F.2.1, VA.K.S.2.2, VA.1.C.2.1, VA.1.H.2.3, VA.1.F.2.1, VA.1.S.2.2, VA.1.S.3.2, VA.2.C.2.2, VA.3.C.1.2, VA.4.F.2.2, VA.5.O.1.3, VA.912.H.2.6, VA.912.F.2.2

Trail at Art of Animation

Disney’s Art of Animation resort is the newest addition to the value resorts and is a great place for families to call home during their vacation stay. But you don’t have to book a room to take in the fun atmosphere there. Wander the grounds to see the terrific themed areas and to find a cool learning opportunity.

Head straight to the back of the resort, past the Big Blue Pool and playground area, to Hourglass Lake. There you’ll find a 1.38-mile trail around the lake (sponsored by New Balance) that’s suitable for walking or jogging. It’s great for getting in some exercise or taking in the sunset, but this trail also provides some fun facts to learn on your way.

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Signposts along the trail share info and trivia about the four Disney films that are represented at the resort. These facts range from how characters got their names to the type of equipment that was used to animate the films. And it doesn’t matter which direction you choose to head on the trail; there are different facts going in both directions.

IMG_3973The trail is great for film buffs. Be aware that there are smoking areas situated at a couple of spots along the trail. It also connects to the trail at Pop Century, making a full loop around Hourglass Lake.

 

STEM Topic:
Technology