Welcome to Disney's Animal Kingdom! Covering 500 acres, Animal Kingdom features more than 1700 animals from 250 different species. Animal Kingdom is AZA accredited, and the whole park emphasizes the theme of conservation. While Animal Kingdom is divided into 7 lands, much of the educational value revolves around the animals, and those lessons will be the same no matter where you see critters. So rather than repeat myself over and over again, let me just cover some of those learning points right now before we go any farther.
As far as the animals go, here are some basic things you can learn about each one: Where do they live in the world?, What is their habitat like?, What do they eat? Are they herbivores or carnivores? Are they the hunter or the hunted...or both? (You may need to ask Cast Members for some of this info), In the wild, are their "numbers" good or are they threatened or endangered? What type of animal are they, i.e. mammal, reptile, etc.? What is their scientific name? What type of animal are they "related to". And that's just a short list off the top of my head.
Your child could keep a journal and organize the animals you see by continent or type or meat eaters vs. plant eaters, or any other way you want. We studied Apologia's Land Animals of the Sixth Day this year, so I let my son take pictures as we travelled the park to put in a photo book for his end of the year record.
Speaking of traveling the park, let's get started! As you enter Animal Kingdom, you are in the Oasis. There are animals tucked throughout here if you just poke around. You just might see a giant ant eater, a cavy, any number of birds, or these guys:
|Thankfully, almost every animal you see will either have its own plaque or be listed on a "spotting guide" so they are easy to identify and learn about.|
|Standing 145 feet tall, it is carve with the images of over 300 animals.|
|If you look carefully, you can see a tiger, a bison, and a sea horse. There are tons of other animals in this photo too.|
Tucked in around the Tree of Life are lots more animals just waiting for you to discover them (like the Crowned Crane in the picture of the tree above). This area is also home to the It's Tough to be a Bug 3D movie and to the first Kid's Discovery Club stop you find when you enter the park. Like Kidcot at Epcot, this offers a free educational experience for your children and the different areas of the park each feature a stop with different activites to perform before your log book is stamped.
To the left from Discovery Island is Camp Minnie-Mickey, which is home to my favorite Disney show, The Festival of the Lion King. It is a "theatre in the round" show, so you could discuss how that differs from tradition theatre. It showcases singers, dancers, tumblers, and floats with "puppetronic" characters on them. Oh, and a fire twirler. There's got to be something educational about that, right?
Beyond Camp Minnie-Mickey is Africa, home to Kilimanjaro Safaris and the Pangani Jungle Expedition Trail. The storyline of the safari carries a heavy anti-poaching message, continuing the conservation theme of the park. Really both these attractions are about the animals, so here are a few pictures of what you might see. (Note that on the safari, getting good pictures takes a combination of a steady hand, a back-up of traffic, a good day to see animals, a good camera, a lot of luck, and a willingness to get bruised. Really. And the day I took most of these was a good animal day, but I didn't have my "good" camera, so they are a little blurry)
|Two types of Giraffe-look at the spots to see the difference|
|Ankole Cattle-their horns are amazing!|
|The frequently elusive cheetahs|
|Elephant mom and her calf|
The Jungle Trail:
|Emperor Scorpians glow under UV light!|
|dung beetles and their dung ball.|
|My 7 year old's hands in the prints of a 6 year old gorilla.|
Leaving Africa, you can take a train ride to Rafiki's Planet Watch. On the train, you can get a "backstage" look at some of the animal areas. Rafiki's Planet Watch has 2 main areas: Affection Section (a petting yard) and Conservation Station, which offers a look at some of the aspects of animal care like feeding and veternary upkeep, as well as some live animal encounters, some animal cams, AND those 3D sound booths that I wrote about in my post on Hollywood Studios.
|Always with a flair for the dramatic, my girls react to a rafflesia plant painted on the walls of Conservation Station. May that be as close as we ever come to one of those plants!|
Leaving Rafiki's Planet Watch the same way you arrived, you can then head to Asia. On the way, try to catch DiVine. Perhaps the most elusive of all the Disney performers, we've lucked into her twice. She's a performance artist who is covered with greenery and can completely blend in to her surroundings.
|That's her-the greenery on the right behind TJ|
|A closer up picture.|
The next educational stop in Asia is the Maharajah Jungle Trek. You could start by talking about what exactly a maharajah is. And then, it's all about the animals.
On the Trek you can see tigers...
Birds- here's one of those spotting guide I was telling you about.
The Kali River Rapids is a white water rafting adventure with a theme that focuses on the evils of deforestation. This ride and its queue is meticulously themed and offers a beautiful look at Asian temples and old buildings.
The biggest "draw" in Asia is Expedition Everest. As with roller coasters in the other parks, there are lots of physics topics that apply. You could also discuss the yeti and other regional "urban legends".
Heading out of Asia, you enter the last area of Animal Kingdom- DinoLand U.S.A. Finding Nemo-The Musical is a Broadway worthy show that features live actors and puppets designed by the same guy who did the puppets for The Lion King on Broadway. Educationally, you could talk about story telling. How they condensed a 90 minute movie into a 40 minute show. What things "stayed" to tell the story, and what elements had to go. You could also discuss whether having the puppets and people both visible on stage "works" and why or why not.
The rest of DinoLand is themed pretty heavily in, well, dinosaurs. You can excavate one in The Boneyard (a themed playground), kidnap one on the amazing Dinosaur ride (and encounter plenty of other audio animatronic ones), walk under one in the arcade area. There are dinos everywhere you go, and that allows for many dino related topics. Don't miss the chance ride Dinosaur. It uses Enhanced Motion Vehicles. The technology behind them is incredible.
So that's the whole park! I hope you enjoyed this look at Theme Park Schooling at Animal Kingdom. Join me on Friday for a quick look at Universal and Sea World. And be sure to check out the clickable banner below. It will take you to a blog where all 65 themes are listed for this Crew Blog Cruise. There are some really interesting topics being blogged about!