by Fancy Free Diva
Most people who know me know two things about me: I love Disney and I love books. I’m an English teacher, after all. If your school is anything like mine, though, there’s been a real push toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). I’m more a lover of story than science, but I have recently been reviewing some of those science concepts I had thought long-since buried in the depths of my gray matter, concepts from back in the days of high school AP Physics, and it’s all thanks to Disney.
Disney employs people as Imagineers, and these people represent the best of both worlds: they, like me, love story and have active imaginations, but they are also engineers, which means that if they can dream it, they can figure out how to engineer it and do it. If you have ever wondered how Disney Imagineers do it, look no further than The Science of Disney Imagineering, a set of DVD programs designed to teach science concepts like design and models, energy, levers and pulleys, gravity, Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, or magnetism by showing how these concepts work within the Disney parks.
While these DVD programs are specifically designed for classroom use and aligned to the National Science Education Standards, my family and I have enjoyed viewing them and learning from them right in the comfort of our own living room.
Diva Tip: If you are a classroom teacher, it may help you to know that each DVD is accompanied by a “Try It Yourself” experiment, and interactive assessment designed to reinforce key concepts, and a downloadable educator’s guide with additional activities and resources.
Each program runs approximately 25 minutes and is primarily designed for a middle school audience (grades 5-8), but I have been watching these videos with my 5-year-old, and she is intrigued and engaged by the concepts and the way they are presented. Combining slick animations, an engaging host, interviews with real Imagineers, and actual footage from the Disney theme parks, these programs are eye candy for Disney enthusiasts who want a behind-the-scenes look at how their favorite attractions were designed and tested. Knowing the science behind these attractions doesn’t diminish the magic of the experience; instead, the content is presented in a way that enhances the magic and makes the attractions and experiences that much more amazing, especially once you begin to understand all that went into making the imagined concept come to fruition.
While I have enjoyed watching this entire DVD series (there are 11 in all), a couple of the programs have really stood out for me. The Design and Models program is all about the engineering design process. This program details how Imagineers used model-building to create Expedition Everest, and it chronicles all the various tests and designs that went into creating the ball-pull for Toy Story Midway Mania. Incidentally, there were a lot of design ideas for the Toy Story ride, and this program discusses the tests and mechanisms that were put into place, attempted and discarded, before the Imagineers found a design that works – the one we use every time we ride that ride.
The other program that I found absolutely fascinating was the program about Magnetism. Maybe it’s because my background is in English and not science, but I was intrigued to learn about how magnetism works to help play back sound in attractions like the Pirates of the Caribbean, and I was fascinated by how magnets are used to help propel the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
As a teacher myself, I really appreciate how Asa Kalama, a Disney Imagineer himself and the show’s host, introduces and breaks down what might seem like difficult science concepts for younger (or even older) students. His presentation is very engaging, and our whole family enjoyed watching and learning from him and his fellow Imagineers. Because we laughed throughout the program and were thoroughly entertained, I know we were surprised at the end when we took the interactive quiz and found that we had learned so much. I think that’s a testament to the immense educational value of these products.
If you’re ready to see some of these science concepts in action in the Disney parks, be sure to contact Patricia with All for Dreams Travel! She can also help you book the Dine With an Imagineer experience at The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or at Citricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. This unique dining experience is reserved for guests 14 and older gives guests the opportunity to informally chat with a Disney Imagineer. This is definitely something we plan to do when the kids get older, and it seems like the perfect way to gain an even deeper appreciation for all of the science behind Disney’s amazing theme parks and attractions.
***Disclaimer – We at Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos hope you enjoy reading our articles, and encourage you to share any you feel may be of interest to someone else. We do ask, however, if you choose to share the photographs attached to our articles, you give credit to the photographer. Thank you for your cooperation and sharing our love of Disney!