Educational Opportunities at Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom

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While almost every attraction at Epcot has some degree of learning material, Animal Kingdom is not far behind its neighboring park when it comes to school field trips.  This larger than life “zoo” offers much to learn related to many living (and some no longer living) creatures.  As a homeschool mom, I love that Animal Kingdom provides many educational opportunities for my children.

In preparation for an upcoming trip, each of our sons chooses an animal that is a part of Animal Kingdom to study.  My oldest son has chosen some unusual creatures, like the Komodo dragon and the ring-tailed lemur.  My younger sons tend to pick traditional favorites, like the lion, the giraffe, and the elephant.  Each researches his selected animal, writes an age-appropriate report, and includes several pictures, some of which are hand-drawn. 

When our day at Animal Kingdom arrives, they are especially excited about finding the creature they have studied.  Only once were we unable to locate a selected animal.  Even though we asked multiple cast members who guided us in the general direction, the ring-tailed lemur’s whereabouts within the Oasis Exhibits remain a mystery.

One year, we studied dinosaurs prior to our trip.  We read about different types of these extinct creatures and even made our own models from pipe cleaners.  Our project was completed with a ride on Dinosaur, a favorite Animal Kingdom thrill ride for the majority of our family members.  Younger students, however, may prefer topping off their study with a turn on the more docile TriceraTop Spin. 

Most of the learning opportunities at Animal Kingdom need no advanced research, although studying about them ahead of time may enhance the experience.  Kilimanjaro Safaris is an excellent replica of life on an African savanna.  Since our last visit to the World, I have taught a class on this biome to a group of first and second graders, including my youngest son.  Several students in the class had been on the Disney attraction and enthusiastically shared their experiences throughout the course.

One of our favorite shows, “Flights of Wonder”, includes various live birds and their many antics.  Much information is shared about these creatures of the air and a new fact is sure to be learned with each viewing.  Humor is included and audience participation is encouraged, making this interactive show fun and entertaining, while also educational.

Several walking paths – the Maharajah Jungle Trek, the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, and the Discovery Island Trails – give students the opportunity to see a variety of exotic creatures, including tigers, bats, gorillas, hippopotamuses, and porcupines. A wallaby, a sloth, or an anteater may be found in the Oasis Exhibits near the entrance to the park.  A train ride over to Rafiki’s Planet Watch offers young learners an opportunity to pet snakes, goats, and sheep, as well as learn about the care of these and other animals.

One of our favorite attractions at Animal Kingdom is “It’s Tough to be a Bug!”  This animated, 3-D show includes educational material about some of the smallest creatures on earth.  Be warned, however.  We have viewed this show many times and on every visit have heard small children screaming with fright by certain elements of the production.  The educational gain may be overshadowed by the scariness of it for younger students.

Animal Kingdom is full of fun educational information and experiences.  Even the most exciting thrill rides offer new facts that will be remembered forever.  Because of their numerous trips on Expedition Everest, my children will never forget that Mount Everest is located in Asia.  Keep your eyes open and your ears clear as you explore Animal Kingdom.  You never know what new creature you will see and what fascinating piece of information you will learn.

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