Fans of The Lion Guard, a new Disney Junior television series, have something to roar about at Animal Kingdom. Through early April 2016, little ones (and their family and friends) can go on a scavenger hunt type adventure throughout the park to find Kion, son of Simba, and his wildlife protecting friends.
Pick up a map at a participating merchandise location and get familiar with the Lion Guard characters and their special traits. This interactive activity exercises kids’ map skills as they search for character statues throughout the park. They also learn cool animal facts, like how keen eyesight helps birds hunt or how fast a cheetah can run, and even some Swahili phrases.
Once you find all the members of the Lion Guard, head to Rafiki’s Planet Watch to find Rafiki, take the Lion Guard Pledge, and become inducted as a defender of the Pride Lands!
FL Science Standards: [animal traits] SC.K.L.14.3, SC.5.L.17.1
Next Gen Science Standards: [animal traits] 1-LS1-1, 1-LS1-2, 4-LS1-1
FL Social Studies Standards: [map skills] SS.K.G.1.1, SS.K.G.1.2, SS.K.G.1.4, SS.1.G.1.2, SS.1.G.1.4, SS.2.G.1.1, SS.3.G.1.2, SS.4.G.1.4
P21 Skills: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
This attraction, located inside the Tree of Life on Discovery Island, is a totally immersive experience that seeks to teach audiences about some of the world’s most interesting bugs. It’s part 3D film, part animatronic show, and part sensory sensation.
As you can imagine, there’s a lot to learn at this attraction, and it all starts in the queue. Incidentally, visiting It’s Tough to be a Bug! gets you amazing and up-close views of the Tree of Life. As you enter the lobby under the tree, you’ll see posters advertising the Tree of Life Repertory Theatre’s past productions. These funny posters also include some neat bug facts, so look around and find as many as you can.
During the show, you’ll learn even more about insects and spiders that have neat features that help them survive in their habitats. Disney Imagineers actually worked with a top Smithsonian entomologist to develop the show and make sure they had all the facts right. You may even come away with a better appreciation for bugs and how they help our environment.
It’s worth noting that this attraction may be scary for young kids or those with a fear of insects or spiders. Some of the visuals or effects can be loud and intense at times. But it’s a great educational opportunity for anyone interested to learn more about bugs in the world.
FL Sunshine State Science Standards:
SC.K.L.14.3, SC.4.L.17.4, SC.5.L.17.1
There are lots of animal viewing areas in Animal Kingdom park. And some are better marked than others on the guide maps. There are a few hidden gems in DinoLand U.S.A.
If you make your way toward Restaurantosaurus, look around the small island of greenery you’ll pass. The guide maps do show that this area has an American Crocodile, and it’s pretty spectacular to see up close. But keep going! You may also spot an Asian Brown Tortoise or some large Abdim Storks.
Placards will teach you all about where each animal comes from, their diet and habits, and what makes them special to our planet. Keep your eyes peeled for even more interesting animals throughout the park.
FL Sunshine State Science Standards:
SC.K.L.14.3, SC.1.L.17.1, SC.2.L.17.1, SC.2.L.17.2, SC.5.L.17.1
Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of Walt Disney World’s most popular attractions. It’s a pretty amazing experience and fun for all ages. Board an open-air safari truck and get out your cameras to observe and learn about African animals in natural habitats. The 18-minute tour takes you through the Disney-created Harambe Wildlife Reserve, and promises lots of animal sightings.
The learning begins in the queue. Placards throughout the line match African animals and their Swahili names, or give fast facts about the animals. Did you know that Simba means “lion” in Swahili? There is also a short video that plays as you get closer to the loading dock. The video introduces us to the warden of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, and teaches more about animal behavior and factors that are threatening those animals in the wild.
During the safari you can use overhead animal spotting guides to help you identify the animals that you see in the Reserve. But be sure to listen to your safari guide as well. He or she will help point out the animals and is sure to share lots of information about them. On our last safari, we learned quite a few new things. For instance, cheetahs are the only big cats that purr!
Kilimanjaro Safaris is a great educational attraction and a must-do for animal lovers. The ride is always different because you never know which animals you’ll spot! FastPass+ is usually recommended for this attraction during busy seasons.
FL Sunshine State Science Standards:
SC.K.L.14.3, SC.1.L.14.1, SC.1.L.17.1, SC.2.L.17.2, SC.4.L.17.4, SC.5.L.17.1
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
We continue our Bookstore Series, pointing out where to buy books, both educational and for leisure, around Walt Disney World.
The Serka Zong Bazaar is located just outside of Expedition Everest. If you dare to take the train ride up Mount Everest, you conveniently end up exiting right into the Bazaar. This is actually a great gift shop. Of course you can find all manner of fun yeti plush and Disney-themed merchandise. But you can also purchase unique handcrafted gifts and accessories from Nepal that helps support local artisans there.
Be sure to check out the corner that is dedicated to books. You’ll find good reads, both fiction and nonfiction, for adults and children. Adult books include some fascinating and inspirational first-hand accounts from Everest climbers. Kids’ books include terrific National Geographic picture books, titles about saving snow leopards, and even a classic Choose Your Own Adventure!
The collection here is definitely one you won’t find in other parks, so check it out.