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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cultivating the Minds of our Children- Classroom vs Disney Parks

-My most recent article on The Disney Driven Life-


The end of the school year is nearing to a close.  We’re all busy with finals, spring concerts and last minute field trips.  The kids all have spring fever and, admittedly, so do I.  All the buzz has me dreaming of our summer trip to Disney World. 

When my kids were younger, it was a regular thing for us to pull them out of school and head to Lake Buena Vista for a week.  We would go during non-peak seasons when crowds and costs were lower.  The teachers were great about it, and my daughters caught up easily.

Oh how times have changed.

Now that I have one daughter in high school, one in middle and one in elementary, the difficulties with days missed have surfaced.  High school teachers are not as cheery about trips as the elementary instructors were, and the workload seems to have quadrupled.  I find myself longing for simpler times.

The ethical debate, “to take out of school or not take out of school,” has been around as long as Disney theme parks.  Each case seems to have a loyal following. 

“Do you know the difference between education and experience?  Education is when you read the fine print.  Experience happens when you don’t.”  Pete Seeger

To not take out of school:  For one week of missed school, an abundance of work needs to be done on the part of many.  Teachers must set aside all the work, students need to spend extra time making it up, and parents need to encourage extra hours studying.  If exams are missed, time to make those up needs to be scheduled.  Teachers work extremely hard to provide exceptional education, and I’m sure it feels like backtracking when a student needs to learn things which have already been taught to the rest of the class.  No doubt, all this is not easy.

“Education is a private matter between the person and the world of knowledge and experience, and has little to do with school or college.”  Lillian Smith

To take out of school:  Many believe that a week in Disney far surpasses the educational value of a week in a classroom.  Experience is a better teacher than a textbook. Not to mention all the memories and quality time with family.  It is often less crowded and less expensive to travel while schools are in session. 

Both are very valid points, but I wonder how Walt Disney feels about this?

“Crowded classrooms and half-day sessions are a tragic waste of our greatest national resource - the minds of our children. “  Walt Disney

It is clear that Mr. Disney himself felt that hands on activities and learning through doing were the best way to gain knowledge.  The parks exude all kinds of educational benefits.  The Magic Kingdom has informative attractions such as the Hall of Presidents, and the Carousel of Progress.  The Swiss Family Tree House and the Riverboat make excellent literary companions.

Better than any zoo, the Animal Kingdom is chock full of lessons on environment, animals and conservation.  Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a science lesson to rival any classroom!  You can travel to exotic lands and even back in time to visit Dinosaurs!

Epcot flaunts experiences in every corner!  From science to history, to culture and even to imagination, there are learning opportunities everywhere you look!  Where else can you learn about Velcro and travel the world all in one day?

No matter what side of the coin you are on, Disney World is full of educational experiences that compliment any curriculum…and in a fun way too!

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