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Planning a trip for a group of middle school students to Walt Disney World can be daunting. With that being said, it gets to be a little easier when you participate in a Youth Education Series (YES) program, as Disney tailors the trip specifically for each individual group.
According to Disney, the YES Programs give students real-world learning experiences at Disney Theme Parks and provide new found insights, skills and knowledge to motivate and inspire students. These classes are available for elementary, middle, junior and senior high school students of all ages from around the world.
The Disney YES series has programs geared toward different age levels, skills, and interests. Since our group was a drama troop, we chose programs that revolved around this interest.
The first program we participated in was Disney’s Production Arts and Sciences course which took place at Hollywood Studios. We got to the park about an hour before opening, where our facilitators met us at the front gate and walked us to the area around Tower of Terror. The Cast Members were very energetic and piqued the kid’s interest in the activities immediately.
First, the students participated in a mock production activity including staging scenes, costuming, directing, and taking pictures of the scenes. After this experience we learned about storyboarding and taking a concept from an idea to reality.
One of the more exciting things was that the students actually got the chance to ride Tower of Terror as one of the first groups that morning. Once off the attraction, we discussed more about the theme of the ride and how this particular ride went from concept to reality.
Our next stop was on the Streets of America. Our facilitators shared with us some of the tricks in using perspective to make things seem bigger, smaller, and life-like. The kids were amazed at how some of the buildings looked large and real far away but once you were in front of them they could see that they were actually small and only a picture!
The program ended with a stop over at the Backlot Tour. We got to watch the opening special effects section and then moved to the back of the area to finish up with our curriculum. From start to finish we were there for almost 3 hours!
Disney offers one YES program free to each group and charges a small amount per person for a second one. Our group decided the cost was worth it, so we paid to participate in a second program that took us behind the scenes of Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba at Downtown Disney.
As a requirement to being able to take part in this particular YES program, we had to attend a performance prior to experiencing the backstage tour. My students loved the show and talked about it as being one of the highlights of their trip.
We arrived at Downtown Disney Westside and went to the Cirque du Soleil theater where we met with our facilitator who shared with us a little background information about not only the performance group Cirque du Soleil, but also about the Disney-specific show, La Nouba. Then, we were taken inside and backstage!
During our tour we were shown the costume room, shoe room, make up room, practice room, the green room, backstage, and even under the stage. Finally, we actually got the opportunity to walk ON the stage and got to look out at the seats. The students were able to feel the special floor needed for the show and were shown where the floor would open for the special performers that came from underneath. Our YES program facilitator shared with us facts and special information regarding the performers, the theater, and the show itself. For example, did you know that the building the show is housed in was built specifically for La Nouba?
We did not have the opportunity to meet any of the performers, since they do not come to the theater until a few hours before the performance; however, just seeing the facilities where they worked was amazing! Toward the end of our program we were taken outside of the theater and shown how to do the Diablo (a yo-yo like activity that is shown during the show). My students loved trying this and several even bought a Diablo set to take home with them.
Our YES experience was wonderful and many of the students said that the programs were some of the things that they enjoyed most about our Disney World trip.
Disney makes it easy and fun to bring a group like this. Plus, it also makes it more interesting and special to the kids as they get to go behind in the scenes while learning about Disney at the same time.
Disney offers special package pricing for groups traveling for a YES program and they have dedicated staff to help answer any questions and schedule groups and programs. During our process they were extremely helpful and instrumental in helping our trip be a magical trip for all involved.
The YES Program is available at both the Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resorts. For more information about the Youth Education Series Programs, visit http://www.disneyyouth.com/youth-education-series/