Pacific Electric Railway

Not all learning opportunities at Walt Disney World are quite explicit. As you wander around the parks, you’re likely to see subtle references to historic or cultural points of interest. In Hollywood Studios, there are plenty of design elements that harken back to the golden olden days of Hollywood and Southern California.

Next time you stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, check out the back of the old tip board (now a FastPass+ kiosk). You’ll find a map of the old Pacific Electric Railway system that connected much of Southern California in the 1920s. It’s fun to see the geography of the metro areas, and the advertisement on the map shows what an attraction the railway was in its heyday.

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The map also connects the other design elements of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, since you’ll spot rail cars, trolley lines, and Pacific Railway logos. It’s all part of the plan to really put you into that classic place and time.

 

STEM Topic: Engineering
FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.K.G.1.2, SS.K.G.1.4, SS.2.G.1.1, SS.3.G.1.1, SS.4.G.1.4, SS.6.G.1.2

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Kugel Ball

Have you ever walked through Tomorrowland and spotted that giant stone ball near Auntie Gravity’s and thought, “what the heck is that?” There is no label or placard, but it’s a Kugel Ball.

IMG_4170Kugel Ball fountains are engineering wonders. They consist of a large granite or marble sphere floating on a very thin plane (less than the thickness of a credit card) of water in a perfectly fitted socket. The water, pumped from below, lubricates the stone and creates a pressure such that the solid, heavy stone is easily rotated!

IMG_4171Kugel Ball fountains exist all over the world, and some sport images of maps or globes. The Kugel Ball at Walt Disney World is carved with a sky map. Next time you’re walking by, give it a roll!

 

STEM Topic: Science, Engineering
FL Sunshine State Science Standards:
SC.K.P.13.1, SC.1.P.12.1, SC.1.P.13.1, SC.2.P.13.4, SC.4.P.12.1, SC.5.P.13.1, SC.5.P.13.2

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

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!

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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.

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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

PeopleMover

The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover is a great way to tour Tomorrowland while resting your feet. The 10-minute ride takes you above and into some of Magic Kingdom’s most popular attractions like Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

IMG_3840Keep your eyes peeled for a piece of Disney history during the tour. One of the first dark areas you enter houses a model of Progress City, an early concept for EPCOT. This model shows us what Walt Disney’s idea of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow might have looked like. Even though Progress City never really came to be, a lot of the ideas made their way into today’s Walt Disney World.

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As you ride along, you may also notice the linear induction motors embedded in the PeopleMover’s track. These magnets are what keep the trains moving forward and control their speed. Truly environmentally friendly!

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STEM Topic: Technology, Engineering

Liberty Square Riverboat

During your visit to Liberty Square, it’s hard to miss the stately paddle-wheeled riverboat that floats along the Rivers of America. This grand vessel is the Liberty Belle and is a replica of the historic steamboats that once traveled up and down the Mississippi River. The Liberty Belle is a real working steamboat and if you ride on the lower Main Deck, you can get a good view of the boiler and pistons that work the paddlewheel.

RiverboatNot only is the Liberty Belle a great way to unwind and catch some neat scenery, it’s full of educational tidbits. Take a walk on the second level Promenade Deck and you’ll find an enclosed salon that houses maps, photographs, and 19th century artifacts related to travel on the river.

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Be sure to listen closely to the audio narration during the tour. You’ll hear the captain and his friend, author Sam Clemens, explaining all kinds of things: engine room commands, how to measure a fathom, Native American tribes and customs, and what the term “mark twain” really means. And kids who are reading Tom Sawyer may get a kick out of seeing and hearing about the book’s famous landmarks on Tom Sawyer Island.

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Be aware that guests enter the Liberty Belle on the middle deck and exit on the bottom deck, but it is wheelchair accessible. The best places to hear the audio during the ride are under cover on the middle deck or on the bottom deck. Also note that the Riverboat usually stops running around dusk, so be sure to check the Times Guide for the day’s operating hours.

 

STEM Topic: Engineering
FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.1.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.2, SS.2.A.2.1, SS.2.A.2.2, SS.5.A.2.2, SS.5.A.2.3, SS.5.A.3.3, SS.5.A.6.3, SS.5.A.6.6, SS.8.A.4.5