Imagine having the chance to define the laws of motion using Space Mountain, observe animal behavior at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or explore the laws of reflection in the Haunted Mansion. These amazing opportunities are the kinds of learning experiences you get through Disney Youth Education Series (YES).
About Disney Youth Education Series
Disney Youth Education Series falls under the Disney Youth Programs umbrella. The Disney Youth Education Series debuted at Walt Disney World Resort in 1979 with 4 programs: art, energy, entertainment and nature. Today there are 31 hands-on learning adventures offered at Disney Parks. The 8 programs offered at Disneyland Resort and 23 offered at Walt Disney World engage and immerse participants in subjects like leadership, arts & humanities, applied sciences, and environmental studies.
Each program showcases the value of teamwork, motivates students to learn and discover, and encourages them to reach their individual potential through experiences that prioritizes learning. Disney YES values each student as an individual and recognizes the unique intellectual, physical, social, and emotional needs and provides various instructional approaches to support each child’s learning.
- Magic Kingdom:
- Hollywood Studios:
- Animal Kingdom:
Disney also offers programs for all levels of Girl Scouts (Daisies through Seniors and Ambassadors!) and Education Programs: College Edition at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. Curriculum geared towards college students includes:
- Culture of Excellence (Magic Kingdom)
- Leadership Strategies (Epcot)
- Techniques of Teamwork (Epcot)
- Creativity- A Leader’s Role (Epcot and Disneyland Resort)
Our Experience Participating in Energy and Waves Physics Lab at Magic Kingdom
My almost 12 year old son and I were invited by Disney Youth Programs to experience their Energy and Waves Physics Lab at Walt Disney World. Like the other offerings through Disney YES, Energy and Waves Physics Lab is year-round program, offered 7 days a week. It allows kids of all ages to examine the electromagnetic spectrum and explore the physics of light and sound through attractions at Magic Kingdom.
We started our morning with Chris, a Disney Cast Member who welcomed us into the parks, gave an overview of what we’d be learning, and got right to work talking about light and the electromagnetic spectrum under a shady tree just off of Magic Kingdom’s Main Street.
Even though it was a hot and humid morning in Orlando and would have been easy for participant’s attention to falter when other park guests were walking around us, the castle was in the background, and the scent of fresh churros wafted by our nostrils, Chris kept the tweens and teens in our group constantly engaged in meaningful learning by asking great questions.
The teacher in me loved that Chris assessed his audience to figure out what they already knew and asked great questions to keep them engaged in the learning experience. The parent in me loved seeing how all of the kids our group responded. Despite being at Magic Kingdom, participants were captivated by what Chris was talking about.
After talking about light, waves, and the electromagnetic spectrum, Chris told our group that “when we play with light, we change people’s experiences.” He went on to explain how Disney uses of different kinds of light, glass, and reflections to show us what they want us to see a in attractions, during different times of day, and even the parades to draw attention to certain things while hiding others. Fascinating, right?
We walked around the corner to Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe where Chris had us observe the light and reflection from outside to demonstrate his points. Then pulled out a piece of black fabric called scrim, a black mesh-like fabric often used in attractions but seldom noticed when you’re actually riding rides.
With our new knowledge about light, we headed over to ride the Haunted Mansion. As we waited in line, Chris told us that our task while riding Haunted Mansion ride was to look for different kinds of light, try to spot scrum, and find examples of how the ride uses reflections.
Two by two we boarded the ride and instead of being passive riders, we actively searched for the things we just discussed as we watched transparent revelers waltzing, banshee heads floating from a nearby organ, and 2 haunted men in a duel somewhere in the the great beyond.
Once our group had exited the ride, we reassembled in the shade and shared what we saw. Kids excitedly shared their discoveries and were thrilled to find out that next up was a behind the scenes look to see how Disney Imagineers make the iconic grand ballroom scene come to life!Please know that while it was thrilling to go behind the scenes of Haunted Mansion to witness the ballroom scene coming to life, I don’t want to spoil the magic behind the ride!
Our group experienced a shortened version of the Energy and Waves Physics Lab that was 90 minutes, rather than the full 3 hours. Though our program was shortened, the format mirrored the format of the full program that involves the Disney Cast Member asking questions to facilitate learning, doing an activity as part of the experience, and discussing how the learning comes to life through what was experienced at the theme park. I love this format because the learning is incredibly engaging and impactful. It left us all wanting to gather a group of 10 kids to participate in all of the other Disney Youth Experience programs!
What Kids Learn Through Disney Youth Experience Programs
If you think that your child will just be running around the parks, Disney YES programs are structured, include learning objectives, are tied to National Core Standards, and accredited and endorsed by national organizations such as Association of Zoos & Aquariums, National Association for Gifted Children, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and ACS Chemistry for Life.
Here’s an example of the learning objectives that kids participating in the Energy and Waves Physics Lab Learning Objectives will be able to do after completing their Disney YES program:
- Articulate a variety of forms of energy
- Define and demonstrate a compression wave
- Define a medium
- Demonstrate and articulate how solids, liquids and gasses affect sound
- Articulate the factors that may affect the speed of sound
- Define acoustics
- Demonstrate how white light is composed of different colors of light
- Articulate how different colors of light are made up of different wavelengths
- Articulate how UV light causes fluorescing in some substances
- Articulate the factors that can influence the intensity of UV light
- Demonstrate how scrim is used to create special effects
- Demonstrate how light can be projected through a lens
- Demonstrate how light is reflected in glass
- Articulate the parts of a wave
- Define and demonstrate frequency
- Articulate the Pepper’s Ghost effect
- Articulate how an understanding of acoustics can aid in the creation of sound effects
- Articulate how an understanding of optics can aid in the creation of light effects
That’s a lot to learn in a 3 hours period of time but the best part of YES programs is that kids are constantly engaged in meaningful learning.
The format of asking questions to facilitate learning, doing an activity as part of the experience, and discussing how the learning comes to life through what was experienced at the theme park allows all ages to be successful in their learning.
How to Book a Disney Youth Experience Series Program
Disney Youth Experiences Series experiences are available year-round, 7 days a week for groups of 10 or more elementary, middle, junior high, high school, and college students.
For more information, visit DisneyYouth.com and these Disney Youth Programs links:
- Disney Youth Programs Facebook page
- Disney Youth Programs on LinkedIn
- Sign up for their e-newsletter
- Book your Disney Youth Experience Series program here
I was invited to Walt Disney World as a guest of Disney Youth Programs who paid for my travel, accommodations, and provided additional items as part of my experience. I personally paid my son’s plane fare so he could join me. All opinions are my own and based on personal experience. No additional compensation was received.