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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Casey’s Corner

Everyone knows the best place to get a hot dog at the Magic Kingdom is Casey’s Corner, right at the end of Main Street, U.S.A. Just the smell of the ketchup is almost enough to lure you in. And once inside, you can’t help but notice the small-town charm and all-American spirit of baseball that pervades the building.

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Step further into the seating area and you’ll be treated to a magnificent collection of historic pennants, baseball cards, photos, and other memorabilia from bygone days. You can get a real sense of the sport as it was during the turn of the century through the 1930s. Take your time to peruse the newspaper clippings and advertisements, and notice how different the equipment used to be.

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This is a great educational spot for sports fans or fans of U.S. history. And of course, fans of the hot dog!

 

FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.K.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.2

The Hall of Presidents

When most people think of Liberty Square, they think of The Hall of Presidents. It is one of the original attractions to Magic Kingdom, and is considered by many to be the flagship and hallmark of Liberty Square. It is certainly the one attraction that immediately comes to mind when most people think about education opportunities at Walt Disney World.

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The building that houses The Hall of Presidents is modeled after Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Inside is a beautiful rotunda that serves as a waiting area and gallery. This space is home to some impressive artifacts and paintings, both original and reproductions, from former Presidents and First Ladies.

HOP 1The theater just beyond the rotunda is where you’ll take in the 22-minute show, narrated by Morgan Freeman, that combines film and “live” action. The film takes you from the birth of our nation and the beginnings of the Presidency, through the Civil War, all the way to modern times. It also highlights notable Presidents such as Jackson, the Roosevelts, and Kennedy.

The audio-animatronics are remarkable in this attraction. And it was Abraham Lincoln who started it all. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair and showed off the incredible animatronic ingenuity of Walt Disney’s Imagineers. Mr. Lincoln was perfected and moved to open The Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom, where he stands and delivers the entire Gettysburg Address. In fact, every U.S. President appears on stage as an animatronic, and a couple give rousing speeches.

The attraction is billed as being for all ages, but it will be most interesting for adults and older children who are studying American History. At the very least, the indoor location makes for a nice break for everyone from summer heat.

 

FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.K.A.2.4, SS.1.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.2, SS.1.A.2.4, SS.5.A.5.1, SS.5.A.5.3, SS.5.A.5.10, SS.8.A.3.6, SS.8.A.3.7, SS.8.A.3.12, SS.912.A.2.1

Shadow Box Tour

Pop Century Resort is a fun place to stay with its over-the-top icons and tributes to pop culture through the years. It’s bright, colorful, and energetic – a great place for families. This resort might not come to mind first as a place to learn something, but we found an opportunity that will appeal to kids and adults alike.

IMG_3378Gather in the lobby at 3:00 to take a tour of the shadow boxes that hang on the wall. Each large display features “artifacts” from particular decades, from the 1950s through the 1990s. The collections are also themed to certain categories, such as clothing, technology, toys, or historical events. Adults will enjoy the trip down memory lane and little ones will get a kick out of seeing (and probably laughing at) some real relics of the past.

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You can find many more references to past fads and pop culture throughout the resort for your own history lesson. But the Shadow Box Tour is guided and allows the opportunity to ask questions. Be sure to check with the front desk or lobby concierge to make sure the tour is happening on the day you visit.

 

FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.K.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.2

BoardWalk Art

Disney’s BoardWalk Resort is full of fun, turn-of-the-century styling from the feature pool to the indoor bar to the art and artifacts on the walls. You may be surprised to find original art and prints from the time period, many of which depict life and leisure on the boardwalks of New York and New Jersey.

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Just outside of the Belle Vue Lounge are some great examples of this artwork. Plaques explain that the prints were published for magazines and “view books” using an engraving process. This technique was common and popular before photo reproductions became mainstream. The prints on display date back to 1890 and 1900. Be on the lookout for more historical prints throughout the resort.

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FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.1.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.2
FL Sunshine State Visual Arts Standards:
VA.1.H.1.3, VA.1.H.2.3, VA.2.H.1.1, VA.68.H.1.1

 

Stave Church Gallery

We know most guests are probably lamenting the loss of the Maelstrom and thinking there’s nothing else to do in the Norway Pavilion. But if you’re in search of an educational opportunity, look no further than the Stave Church Gallery.

Many guests don’t even realize that they can enter this replica of the Gol stavekirke (stave church). And if you’re still on the Frozen bandwagon, you won’t be disappointed by what’s inside. The Stave Church Gallery is currently hosting an exhibit that features artifacts, clothing, photos, and instruments representing Norwegian locales and culture that inspired Disney’s hit film.

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Learn about Norway’s indigenous people, traditional costumes, folk art, and architecture. There are also notes on the making of the film, including how computer technology helped the animators create thousands of individual and unique snowflakes.

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The collection of authentic Norwegian artifacts is on loan from several cultural centers, museums, and universities across the United States and Norway. The “Norsk Kultur” exhibit is likely to remain for quite some time, so check it out!

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