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Teaching Theme in a Theme Park

Spring has finally arrived, and that can only mean one thing–state testing season!  Yes, it’s that time again, time for all of the little Pennsylvania public school students to sharpen their number two pencils, get a good night’s sleep, and start bubbling in those answers.

As a teacher, I’ve spent the last six and a half months trying to prepare my students for the questions they would encounter on the standardized tests.  But not all learning has to happen within the walls of the school.  In fact, there’s a lot to be learned in this country’s most popular family vacation destination–Walt Disney World.

While I cannot reproduce the questions on the tests in any way, shape, or form, I can tell you that there was at least one question that dealt with the concept of theme.  What better place to teach about this abstract concept than in a theme park, where theme becomes concrete.

Many people applaud Disney for it’s amazing ‘theming’–the details included in the different parks and areas of the parks that contribute to the overall effect of that park or area.  Well gee, what a great lesson in theme!

Because your vacation time is valuable, all ideas presented on Suitcase Scholar do not take time away from your holiday, and this lesson is no exception.  In fact, you can teach ‘theme’ just by visiting the restroom.  And everyone has to do that at some point in the day!  Take, for example, how well the theme of the various Magic Kingdom lands is carried out in something as basic as the signs for the restrooms…

Sign located near Splash Mountain in Frontierland

In Frontierland, signs are ‘hand painted’ on ‘wooden’ walls.  In contrast, the signs for the restrooms in Adventureland have a decidedly exotic design, intended to match the Arabian bazaar atmosphere that permeates this land.

Sign located between Aloha Isle and Aladdin

And in Fantastyland, well, everyone is a Princess or a Prince; even the vines around the ‘actual’ restroom sign add a fairy tale effect.

Sign next to Peter Pan's Flight

In literature, theme is not obviously stated.  It is subtle, and requires noticing the little details that combine together to form one overarching idea or unifying effect.  But in Disney World, it is stated–each land has a name, and that name is the theme.  This provides a great starting out point for children new to the concept.

Teaching your kids this skill in a Disney park will not only help them on those tests come testing season, it will help them enjoy their Disney experience as well.  Pointing out signs, details in the seating areas, rides, or even pressed into the pavement as the details are in Animal Kingdom, will only serve to make a Disney World vacation all the more magical–and educational, too!

Up next–a post of the Top Five Most Obviously Educational Rides in Walt Disney World!

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