Friday, September 10, 2010

Disneyland Edutainment Part 2 - Main Street Part 1

The first installment of how to use Disneyland as a classroom was an overview. Let’s start at the parks gate and go land by land and see what we can learn. I know that what I did is only a start. I’m sure you can come up with more ideas than I have.

I suggest you tell your child you are going to do school at Disneyland before you go. Try turning it into a game. Make sure that you don’t take all the fun out of Disneyland. Keep it light, short and simple in the park. Point things out, “Look at that . . . it’s so interesting”. Then come back to it later while sitting and eating, waiting in a line or maybe even the next day when you get home and talk about what was so interesting about it. Maybe even take a picture of it to remind yourself and your child of what you saw.

The first thing I’m going to say is have a plan for what subject you will teach before you get to the park. Be ready to read up on the subject before you go so you can answer questions and don’t be afraid to get the ball rolling at the park and go looking for the answers with your child after you get home. There is nothing wrong with telling your child you don’t know but that together you can find the answer. It’s a way to continue the Disney fun and memories long after you leave the park.

I may repeat information as I write in further blogs. I may write about what is in an area and then later write about that same area when I discuss subjects. For example Main Street is a great place to discuss the History and living conditions of the turn of last century. There are other areas in the park that can be used for History as well. But, there is more to learn on Main Street if you want to use the area to teach math along with other subjects. So the same areas of the park or subjects may get covered twice.

Let’s start with the most obvious learning experience in the park. As you walk down Main Street stop into Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Other than a nice way to get out of the heat, cold, very occasional rain or to just rest your Disney abused feet it is a wonderful look into our 16th President. What more can you learn? Can other subjects be brought up from that attraction? The attraction will not answer these questions or teach all there is to know but it will open eyes and minds and bring up questions that will start conversations and learning. With the current version of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln you can discuss the Civil War. What effects the Civil War had on families and society. Why was the Civil War fought. Mr. Lincoln’s life and his Presidency. Slavery and the abolishment of Slavery and the effect it had on society. In the last version you could also have add the development of photography, Matthew Brody, Fredrick Dougles, unequal payment of blacks in the Union Army, Lincoln’s understanding that payment to black soldiers was unfair but he understood it was not time to push it on society and medical care during the Civil War. You can still add these if you talk about how we got pictures from that era and add in talking about blacks and others besides Lincoln who were part of the Civil War and freeing the slaves. Herriot Tubman would be one of many good people to add that was not mentioned in any version of Great Moments. You can add the Underground Railroad and how slaves would run away and often joined the Union Army to fight.

After you leave Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln look at the park area. There is a flag central and high. Patriotism is high on Main Street USA. Walt Disney’s privet apartment is above the Firehouse and when he was at the park he would stand in his window and watch the flag retreat. There is an area for the band to play and people to gather to listen. This is very much in keeping with how people lived at the turn of last century. Most small towns had a park where people would gather for music and talk about events going on in city and country as well as celebrate events.

Look around Main Street. What do you see? There is the Main Street Train Station, Horse Drawn Streetcars, Old fashion cars and Fire truck and a Double Decker Omni Bus. Now would be a great time to talk about how people get around. You can talk about how at one time the only way to get around was by foot or horse. Then came trains and soon after that cars. Even firefighting equipment changed from horse drawn to gas engine as time progressed. How do we get around today? What is the same and different from 1900. How do you think people will be getting around in 25-50 years?

Stop in the Firehouse and see the horse stalls that are unused and the telegraph to notify the firemen of fires on the other side of town. No phone or modern radio equipment in there. Look at the equipment and talk about how it differs from today’s modern firefighting equipment. Note how little true equipment they really had compared with today.

Have you looked at the street lights on Main Street? Do you see something strange? They are all the same right? No they are not! At the entrance end of Main Street the lights are electric. At the Hub end of Main Street the lights are gas. Why is that something noteworthy? Before 1900 gas was used to light the streetlights and someone had to go out every night and light each one. With the advent and spread of electricity streetlights went electric saving gas and manpower. Now the city did not have to pay people to go out every night to light each light as it got dark. Instead they could flip one switch and turn all the streetlights in the city on. It took time to transition from gas to electric.

There is a wonderful place to stop and sit for a few. There is a nice little patio in front of the lockers, between Main Street Markethouse and the Disney Clothiers. Why do I bring that area to your attention? Sit there for a few minutes and listen. If you are lucky from open windows around you will hear a conversation between a music teacher and a young student. (The student can’t play piano very well. lol) There is the dentist telling his patient about the newest medication to relieve pain while getting his teeth worked on, ether is all the dental rage. I hear a hotel owner telling a person checking in that NO accordion players are allowed. Now get up and walk into the Main Street Markethouse and what do you see there? On the wall is a phone, pick it up and listen to a 1908 partyline conversation. Wow a phone that was not privet! There is a huge potbelly stove in the middle of the store with a table and chairs next to it. On the table there is a checker game set up ready to play. Yes you can stop and play. Why do I find all of this interesting and noteworthy? It is a look into how people in America lived at the turn of last century. You hear how the teacher talks to the student and the newest medication is something we find funny and even dangerous now. The entire lifestyle was different. The local market was a place to come sit and talk. People would spend hours playing checkers and talking so the store would have set aside an area to do so. It’s so much different from the get in get out mentality of today shopping establishments. Today chairs in restaurants and other places have been designed to be uncomfortable for us to sit in for more than 20-30 minutes so we will leave opening the seat for another person.

Look at the buildings on Main Street. Do you see something different or unusual about them? First off the first floor of each building is built at 7/8 scale. This makes the buildings feel more the right size and welcoming for a child and adults feel like they are entering a playhouse from their childhood and feel more playful. Then each additional floor is smaller than the floor below. This is called Forced Perspective. It makes the buildings look taller than they are. It is an old stage trick to make things look bigger for a show.

So to sum it up on Main Street you can learn various history topics and some stage art tricks. There is more to learn on Main Street. We can talk about the history of trains. There are interesting things on display in the shop windows from long gone days. There are shops on Main Street that have fun bits of history in them. My husband will me help fill those in later.

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