Welcome to those of you joining me from My Dreams of Disney, and to those of you just hopping aboard! I am the third stop on this week’s Magical Blogorail!
“Ok, you have to decide together. Which park do you want to go back to for half a day before we have to go to the airport?” I asked.
“ANIMAL KINGDOM!” yelled both girls, in unison.
No complaints from me, it’s one of my favorite places in the entire world (at large). But this response did surprise me. No more treks through Fantasyland? Not just one more ride on Test Track and Soarin?
Nope. Wilderness Explorers had captured my then 5-year-old girls’ hearts – and is still one of the things they most look forward to each trip. Yet somehow, this adventure through the Animal Kingdom is something that is often overlooked by many guests.
Just across the bridge to Discovery Island after entering the park, you’ll see Troop Leaders at the Wilderness Explorers Headquarters; It’s completely free to join! After taking the Wilderness Explorers Pledge and receiving your membership card and handbook, you and your family will be off on your quest. Tip: One of the coolest things about this program is that it can be used in conjunction with any touring plan, or as a stand-alone activity. Some days we will go to Animal Kingdom just to earn badges. Other times, we will ride rides and experience attractions as we normally would, grabbing a badge or two along the way as we pass them. Either way is a lot of fun!
The Handbook contains a map of all of the badge locations – 31 in total – throughout the entire park. Some of the badges are earned by answering questions and then showing your responses to Badge Guides. Others are earned by learning directly from a Guide in an interactive experience. Some include drawing, word scrambles, and all sorts of other fun activities. There are opportunities to learn about animals, tracking, African and Asian culture, hiking safety, backyard habitats, conservation, veterinary medicine, fossils, and even ham radio. That’s just a sampling, but you can see that there is truly something for everyone. We have a blast each and every time!
And if you want to continue the theme, don’t forget to stop and say hello to Dug and Russell!
In our family – as in yours, I’m sure – we highly value our kids’ education. For us (and this is by no means what it has to look like for anyone else!), that looks like sacrifices in many areas to invest in a private school that we really love. It looks like homework in first grade, spelling words like chrysalis and metamorphosis and conversations about negative numbers around the dinner table. It’s phonics with our two-year-old, not because we are insane 🙂 but because he thinks he’s six and desperately wanted to learn his letter sounds.
But you know what we value even more? Family. And we recognize the fact that our kids are growing much too quickly and time is passing faster than we care to admit.
This won’t always be the case, I’m sure – but so far (through first grade), we have pulled our kids out of school to go on vacations at least once each year. As my parents did with me (for different reasons than vacation, but the principle is the same), we evaluate how they’re doing. If the trip will not affect their progress, and we can work with the teacher to not upset his or her preparation, it’s a no-brainer for us. When those vacations are to Disney Destinations, it’s an even easier decision! There is so much to see and do in Disney parks that is educational, that I venture to guess even the adults in your group will learn more than you ever expected.
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
1st Stop: Heidi’s Head – Disney for Homeschoolers
2nd Stop: My Dreams of Disney – Education at Liberty Square
3rd Stop: For the Love of Disney – YOU ARE HERE 🙂
Final Stop: Ashley Aspires – Educational Attractions at Walt Disney World