When you step onto Main Street U.S.A., you’re transported to a different time and place. The music in the air and the architecture around you signal that you’ve entered turn-of-the-20th-century, small town America. Look to your left, past City Hall, and you’ll see the quaint Firehouse. This home of Engine Company 71 (named for the year Magic Kingdom opened) has a lot of history inside.
The Firehouse has gone through a few changes over the years, and now it is a headquarters for the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game. But it hasn’t lost its original charm as an early 1900s firehouse. The walls are covered with photos and props that reflect those early firemen that might have called this place home. And at the back of the Firehouse are the stables for the horses that would have pulled their fire wagon.
Perhaps most interesting are the glass cases that display hundreds of real patches donated by city and county fire departments from all over the United States. These patches serve as a memorial to the brave men and women who put their lives in danger to make sure others stay safe.
Next time you visit, stop inside the Firehouse to glimpse at history and maybe find your hometown fire department’s patch.
FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.1.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.2, SS.1.A.2.4
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.
The 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.
A 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.
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!
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.
For 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.
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
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is known for having great shows. A classic favorite is Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! Sure it’s entertaining and a must-do for Indiana Jones fans. But watch and listen closely and you’ll also learn a lot about movie-making.
During this 30-minute show, the audience gets to see three different Indiana Jones film scenes acted out, complete with stunts and special effects. During the production, you are introduced to the director, 2nd unit assistant director, director of photography, and special effects coordinator. Each explains their job on a film set and what they are responsible for in the scenes during the show.
You also hear from a few of the actors who demonstrate fight routines and explain the difference between a stunt double and a stunt actor. And if you arrive early enough (and are 18 or older) you can volunteer to be part of the action! A casting director chooses members of the audience to come onto the set and take part in the filming.
This is definitely a crowd-pleasing show and is great for all ages. It is in an outdoor amphitheater, and while it is covered, the show may not take place if it’s raining. There are usually about five shows a day. This is a great experience for film buffs or those interested in film careers.