Each month, with the support of Walt Disney World Resort Community Relations, Disney’s Animal Programs and Entertainment cast members partner to bring some wonderful programs to kids, ranging from toddlers to teenagers. The programs include educational presentations, interactive activities, animal encounters and special appearances by Disney characters. And for kids who are unable to leave their rooms to attend a program, we make individual room visits to bring the fun to the kids.
The kids really get into trying to figure out which animal is the fastest, strongest, largest, etc., during our “Awesome Animals” program. And they are amazed at what animals can be found right in their own backyards during our “Backyard Buddies” program. Another favorite is the “Caring for Animals” program – there are nods of understanding all around when kids learn that our animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom undergo many of the same procedures when they are cared for by our veterinary team as the kids do when they receive care from the hospital medical team.
During these visits, it’s hard to say who has the better time, us or the kids!
It’s a beautiful spring break week here in Central Florida, providing the perfect setting to get outdoors and explore the natural “magic” found right here in our own backyard at the Walt Disney World Resort. In addition to millions of guests, a few special neighbors from the Rosemont Community Center in Orlando, Florida, are enjoying every minute of it. Walt Disney World Community Relations has teamed up with Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment cast members for the second year in a row to offer a special spring conservation day camp to 40 Central Florida children as a way to inspire them to apply their creative talents to make positive contributions within their community that benefit nature and the environment.
The children, ages 6 to 12 years old, arrived Monday at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on day one of camp. They were ready to explore and connect with nature, including all of the amazing animals soon to be experienced throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as well as those featured during treks to The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot and to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. By traveling “around the world” right here at the Walt Disney World Resort, campers are exploring many unique habitats while coming face to face with some of the diverse animals that live there. From the pride lands of the African savanna, to the treetops in the jungles of Asia, and finally back to the leaf-covered forests of their own backyards, campers are learning about conservation efforts through animal encounters, interactive games and activities, and field trips.
And on top of it all, the children are having fun, as that is a key component of all of our learning experiences! In fact, we even had some honorary “campers” join us on the first day when they heard what a great time we were having exploring Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Rich Tamayo and Tye Arnold, the 2013-2014 Walt Disney World Ambassadors, joined the 6-to-8-year-old campers to explore Africa via the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and also by riding the Kilimanjaro Safaris.
“In bringing Disney conservation magic to local children, we know that those who participate will leave empowered to become champions for wildlife and nature and affect change to make the world a better place for all of us,” said Nancy Gidusko, director of community relations for Walt Disney World Resort.
Pretty fun way to spend spring break and make a difference for nature!
Want to help people, communities and the planet? Spread the word by sharing this blog post with your friends and family. Learn more about Disney’s community and conservation efforts both locally and around the world at WDWnews.com/about/environment/ and Disney.com/conservation. Experience more of our conservation work by participating in our guest offerings, such as Backstage Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
So what do elephants and educators have in common? Here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they happen to have quite a bit in common: it was our conservation work with elephants in the wild that led to our conservation education work in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, where we are connecting with communities by engaging local South African educators in hands-on workshops.
As shared in the accompanying video, Disney’s Animal Programs educators have created a hands-on workshop that is offered to educators living in rural communities in South Africa, where there is a diversity of landscape and vegetation that shelters an abundance of wildlife, including not only the “Big Five” animals (elephant, rhino, cape buffalo, lion, leopard), but many other species as well, such as cheetah, giraffe and hippo.
To aid the educators in better understanding how to protect and care for African wildlife, we incorporate conservation actions into the workshop that can be integrated into classroom lessons for the students. As these teachers increase their connection to the natural world through the workshop training, conservation lessons learned, and experiences provided, they have the capacity to influence not only the thousands of school children they teach collectively, but also the multitude of families who live in their communities.
Helping the people who live side by side with endangered wildlife is an essential part of conservation, and that truly is the essence of this program, along with bringing just a little bit of our Disney magic to nature’s magic for the benefit of African wildlife.
Connecting kids with nature for the benefit of kids and the planet — I can’t think of a better topic for my first post on the Disney Parks Blog.
Last month, Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment cast members teamed up with Walt Disney World Community Relations to offer a special spring conservation day camp to 120 Central Florida children.
The first through eighth grade campers got a chance to connect with nature and meet animals from five continents, including those in our own backyard here in North America, during the camp at the Walt Disney World Resort. The children, who were selected from Central Florida neighborhood centers, attended camp during their week-long school vacations.
In addition to activities and adventures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, campers took field trips to The Seas with Nemo & Friends and the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. Highlights included making special treats for some of the animals, including preparing cantaloupe slices, corn on the cob and other special food treats to be hung as enrichment in the bat habitat at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. After making the enrichment, campers headed to the Maharajah Jungle Trek and watched as the fruits and vegetables were hung by an animal keeper. The campers were delighted to watch the bats enjoy the treats — the campers knew exactly which ones they had made!
“With a philanthropic focus on children and conservation, we believe this kind of exposure could spark a life-long passion, or even career aspiration, for conservation,” said Nancy Gidusko, director of community relations for Walt Disney World Resort. “Through this experience, we hope these day campers will feel empowered to become champions for wildlife and nature and affect change to make the world a better place for all of us.”
At the end of the week, we asked the campers what they will do to help wildlife and nature — and their responses were inspiring! They ranged from walking and riding bikes instead of driving, to saving water, energy and other natural resources, to protecting wildlife habitats so animals can not only survive but thrive. By helping these kids develop life-long conservation values through nature exploration and discovery, we hope to stimulate creativity and inspire life-long learning in these kids, as well as create a vision for a future filled with nature.
In the words of Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” “Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young, it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”
Take a look at the video and see how much fun connecting with nature can be, muddy hands, grass-stained sleeves and all!