I feel like I ran a marathon today.   I believe I have a type “A” child in the making.  She is not quite there, which is evident by her clothes strewn about my house, but when she sets her mind to something she is all in all the way. 

We went to Animal Kingdom today; our season passes are about to expire so we are doing our last round of the parks.  On the way into Animal Kingdom I noticed a new stand called the Wilderness Explorer.  I wish I knew this was there before we went – what a great homeschool opportunity.  I wanted to share this with everyone out there planning visit the parks.  If I had known about this program I would have prepped my daughter for the task …so many opportunities to teach.  Even without prep you can still make your visit fun and an educational opportunity.   The basic goal is to visit 31 Wilderness Explorer Stations.  At each station has some educational opportunity.  Once you either complete the task or listen to some educational, but fun, information from your “Wilderness Badge Guide”  you earn a sticker badge to put in your book given at the initial Wilderness Explorer Station.  My Type “A” in training wanted to earn all her badges…hence the marathon began.  Here is a list of the stickers/badges you can earn:

Wilderness Explorer BadgeLearn hand signs. This was great for my daughter, we are learning sign language in our current coop so it was right up her alley.  This is also a great introduction to sign language.

Flamingo BadgeLearn about bird banding.  We just happen to be studying birds so this showed her real bird banding in action.  We had already made a bird band at home for her toy bird.

Animal Find BadgeLearn the names of animals and check them off as you find them.  You can have your child pick any animal(s) and study one or more in depth before or after your visit.

Insect BadgeFind out what insect you are most like and learn some facts from your wilderness guide about different insects.  This could be used as a great introduction to studying local insects in your area.  Spiders were a topic of conversation at our wilderness station.

Music BadgeLearn about and identify instruments.  The instruments in our handbook were from Africa.  This could be a segue into studying Africa or instruments.

Safari BadgeGo on the Safari and answer some questions in your Wilderness Explorer Handbook. You can have your child pick any animal(s) and study one or more in depth before or after your visit – you can pick the ones listed in the Animal Find Badge section or found on Safari.

American Culture BadgeMeet someone from Africa.  Study Africa or African culture and have your child prepare some questions to ask at the Wilderness station.

Ham Radio BadgeListen to a Radio for codes and identify the code needed in your Handbook.  My daughter has been into spying activities.  We have a book on codes and have in the past learned different types of codes, including Morse code. This may stir some interest for your kids.

Hiking BadgeFollow trail markers and answer questions in your Handbook.  You can use this opportunity to teach your child about camping/hiking.

Birding BadgeBird observations.  As I said earlier we happen to be studying birds so this was a great opportunity for observations.  We took pictures of birds and the bird guides and I plan on printing them out and have my daughter identify the birds she saw.

Tracking BadgeLearn the different ways an animal can be tracked in the wilderness.  We are going to pick an animal, other than the one in the Handbook and see how we can track that animal – plan on picking one in our backyard or neighborhood so we can actually try to track one…might be our dogs.

Gorilla BadgeObserve gorillas and learn about them at your Wilderness station.  You can actually view Gorillas in their habitat if you happen to be studying them.  If not have your child find out, either by research or by talking to a Disney employee, why they have some unusual items, i.e. tires, in the Gorilla area.

Habitat BadgeFind animals hidden that would normally be found in your backyard.  Check your backyard for animals found during your visit at the park.

Conservation BadgeLearn about conservation at the Conservation Station.  Take this one step further when you get home and visit recycling centers in your hometown.  You can also start recycling at home.

Animal Nutrition BadgeLearn about what animals eat.  Whatever animal you choose to study more make sure you cover what they eat.

Veterinary BadgeDiagnose the sick animal.  Research what every day items are dangerous to animals.

Recycling BadgeDecipher a code.  Same activity listed under Ham Radio Badge and/or Conservation Badge.

Hand Washing BadgeLearn good hand washing etiquette.  Take it a bit further and teach younger kids about germs.

Asian Culture BadgeMeet someone from Asia.  Our Wilderness leader was from Thailand and he wrote my daughters name in Thai.  We are going to write the Thai alphabet as a project.  If the home country of your wilderness leader sparks interest with your child, you can study the place your troop leader was from or any location in Asia.

Forestry BadgeLearn about the importance of trees.  So much to study about trees…

Animal Call BadgeLearn different animal calls.  We were able to find a tour through one of our county offices that taught some bird calls.

Explorer’s BadgeMake a rubbing of a badge earned by explorers.

Bat BadgeLearn about bats.  Make a bat house at home.

Tiger BadgeLearn about tigers and why they are losing their home.  Study this further at home.

Currency Badge – Learn about exchange rates.  Create a math lesson on converting currency or simply use this as a kick off to learn about different currencies in different countries.  Ask Disney employees from a different country what current is sued in their country (employees home residence is listed on their badges)

Telescope BadgeLearn the height of some mountain peaks.  Study mountains throughout the world.

Mount Everest BadgeFind gear needed for exploring.   Might be fun to go visit a local Bass Pro Shop and check out the gear needed.

Yeti BadgeLook at paintings, carving and stone works to see how folklore is passed on to future generations.  Use as an introduction to hieroglyphics.

Fossil BadgeLearn about fossils. Go to a museum at check out fossils or make some at home.

Dinosaur BadgeGo digging for fossils. Same as above.

Signaling BadgeLearn about and find signal flags.  Make up signal flags at home for different items, i.e. need a drink, bedtime, and have fun using the flags at home.

Despite not knowing about the program ahead of time, we found plenty to learn and study.   Most of my suggestions can be done either before or after your visit to the part.  As with any park, you can teach your child map skills and then let them practice their skills by being the map guide throughout the park.  

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