Thursday, January 15, 2015

Destination Education - Part 1: CANADA PAVILION

Welcome to Part 1 of my series “Homeschooling for Disney World”. I will be posting these discussions weekly leading up to my own family's trip to Disney World in June.

For the month of January and the first part of February, I will be tackling the World Showcase at Epcot. Each week I will select a country for our discussion. First, I'll give you a brief overview of the country's pavilion, such as what you will find there, what type of shopping and dining you will find – basically your tourist book rundown of each area. Then I will actually delve in depth in regards the possible lesson topics one can study before visiting them with your own family.

When one begins to talk about educational opportunities at the Magic Kingdom, most peoples minds instantly go to Epcot. This isn't surprising: eleven countries are represented around a beautiful reflective lake making a stroll around the world completely possible. From left to right, the countries represented are Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, The United States, Japan, Morocco, France, The United Kingdom and Canada. Each country has a pavilion that does a great job representing each country and most of the workers at each pavilion are from the country the represent.

Upon entering the World Showcase from Future World, I tend to travel from right to left. This is because most people visiting travel the opposite direction, making it possible to avoid the masses to some degree.


The first stop on our virtual education tour is the Canada Pavilion. Representing our neighbor to the north, this pavilion displays various landmarks, sale items and souvenirs from the 2nd largest country in the world. (The Largest Country, Russia, is not represented in the World Showcase at Epcot).  Canada itself is made up of 10 provinces and 3 territories.  The ten provinces are Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan.  The three territories are the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.  
As of 2014, The Canadian Lumberjack Show performs at the Canadian Pavilion. (No more Off Kilter.. ) I have yet to see this show so I have nothing to report on it.

O'Canada - In the Maple Leaf Mine located inside the Rocky Mountains, the 14-minute motion picture presented in CircleVision 360' highlights Canada's natural beauty, cities and diverse populace, and is hosted by Canadian actor Martin Short.


Northwest Mercantile - Kitras Art Glass handmade ornaments resemble one of the four seasons. The store offers Hatley clothing, Roots fragrances and athletic wear, Deauville perfume, Ice Wines, body care items, and Canadian hockey gear.  Christmas ornaments depicting woodland creatures are also found here.
The Trading Post - Gifts representing Canada's frontier days including maple syrup items and lumberjack shirts. 

Le Cellier (the Cellar) offers sit-down dining featuring steaks and seafood paired with the wines and beers of Canada. Be sure to try the poutine and the cheddar cheese soup. Unfortunately, it is the only dining option in the Canada Pavilion and it is one of the most expensive restaurants in the Disney World Resort.

What Can We Learn From Canada

The way I introduce my children to each pavilion is to start with a quick visual introduction to the Pavilion on youtube. Ithemepark makes some great videos that capture the site and sounds of the pavilion we're studying. For the Canada Pavilion, I recommend

Once my kids get a good look at the pavilion, I move on to an actual Geography/History unit on the country we are visiting. I highly recommend using unit studies by Amanada Bennett when they are  available. Expedition Canada is part ofthe Download and Go one week unit studies and are perfect for a quick five day tour of the country. These units run $8.95 but keep your eye out for specials on their website. It's not unusual for the geography and expedition units to go on sale for $5/each.  I really like these unit studies because they cover alot different topics, not just geography. This particular unit touches on How Canada got it's name, Niagara Falls, various animals found in Canada, Leif Ericsson, the invention of the zipper, and the Northern Lights to just name a few things. They really are great unit studies for younger children. ( I should mention that I am not affiliated with Amanda Bennett or Unit Studies, I just REALLY like their offerings.)

Now your kids have a good grasp on the country itself and they are ready for the actual exploration of the pavilion.

The Canada pavilion is a mixture of rustic Native Indian villages, an ornate French-flavored chateau, the Scottish influence of the Maritimes and the ruggedness of the Canadian Rockies. The crowning jewel of the Canada pavilion would be the Hotel du Canada (Hotel Canada) which represents Eastern Canada. Hotel du Canada is modeled after Ottawa's Fairmont Chateau Laurier which was designed in the French Gothic Chateauseque architecture style in order to complement the adjacent Parliament buildings. Hotel du Canada offers up two possible lessons:

My husband in front of Hotel du Canada, Victoria Gardens and the Rockies.
  1. The Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel itself. For older students, the history behind the hotel is pretty fascinating. Charles Hays, the president of the Grand Trunk Railroad, paid $2 million in order to have the hotel built. Unfortunately, Hays never made it to Ottawa for the opening of his hotel – 11 days before the grand opening, he died aboard the Titanic. A great synopsis of the history of the hotel can be found here . For younger students, the physical aspects of the hotel would make a great lesson. A great launching pad would be the green roofs of the hotel. Why are they green? (Copper) Here's a great experiment for younger kids to turn pennies green that has a great explanation as to why the chemical reaction occurs. What other object can your kid think of that is made of copper and has turned green as well (The Statue of Liberty). Finally, the Fairmont Chateu Laurier offers a wonderful app that offers an interactive historical tour with a narrative walk through time including stories and historical images. Available on both Android and Apple . (App is limited to specific devices – it was not available on my EVO but I could download it to my kids Nabi Dreamtab).
  2. Forced Perspective – Disney World LOVES to use forced Perspective in order to trick the eyes
    Fun with Forced Perspective
    into thinking something is much taller than what it actually is. At the Canada Pavilion, Disney has uses this technique to make you think that Hotel du Canada is 6 stories tall when in actuality it's 3 stories. You'll find this same technique used for the Rocky mountains. By placing larger
    elements towards the bottom and smaller elements at the top, it give the impression that the Hotel du Canada (and the Rockies) is taller than they actually is. A great way to show this to your student is with your camera. By placing a smaller object closer to the camera and posing properly with a larger object in the distance, you can make it look like they are interacting with the object. Can you think of any movies that used this technique? For older students, this would be a great research topic - most recently the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies use forced perspective – many old B-rated (low budget) sci-fi/horror movies like Godzilla.

Western Canada is well represented with the Rocky Mountains and the thirty foot waterfall. As mentioned above, the Rocky Mountains section was created using Forced Perspective. The plants at the bottom are much bigger than the ones at the top, in fact, the higher you go, the smaller the plants. This makes the Rockies look larger and taller than they really are. The Rockies also show the Canadian seasons, with snow in the mountains in the winter. Disney horticulturists plant all white flowers during winter months to give the appearance of snow on the ground. As spring approaches, white flowers remain in shaded areas (to look like lingering snow) and are replaced in the central areas with colors.

Canada Pavilion's Victoria Gardens.
The beautiful gardens in front of Hotel du Canada and the Rockies were inspired by the famous Butchart Gardens near Victoria, British Columbia. Located in Bentwood Bay, the Victoria's Butchart Gardens were originally a cement plant. Jennie Butchart, the wife of Portland Cement owner Jimmy Butchart, decided on making the exhausted limestone quarry into a sunken garden. The project was started in 1909 and was completed in 1921.

  1. For older students, the history of Butchart Gardens would make for a great research topic. Whether it be the history of Jennie Butchart and the creation of the gardens or maybe a paper in regards to limestone mining in general.
  2. Younger students will have a lot of fun making a recreation of the famous gardens. Using various colors of tissue paper and green pipe cleaners. A great tutorial can be found here. Combine all the flowers to make a gorgeous diorama.

My husband standing beside David Boxley's Totem and Longhouse
To the left of the pavilion, you'll find The Trading Post that sells authentic Canadian merchandise as well as Disney souvenirs. This store is themed to look like a Native Canadian longhouse, and three totem poles can be found directly across from it. At The Trading Post you will find authentic maple syrup, maple candies, tea, and cookies, handmade native jewelry, Maplefoot Babies stuffed animals, Anne of Green Gables books, BOMA totem poles, and faux raccoon and skunk skin caps. Outside the Trading Post you will find three totem poles. Two of the poles are made of fiberglass and were designed by Disney Imagineers. However, the third totem pole was designed by David Boxley, an internationally recognized Northwest Coast Native artist and culture bearer of the Tsimshian tribe. Boxley's totem is an authentic work of art carved from a 30 foot tall cedar log. The totem tells the story of “Raven” tricking the “Sky Chief” into the release of sun, moon and stars from a chest.

There is a plethora of educational possibilities attached to this particular area of the Canadian pavilion in regards to the Native American people.
  1. A quick lesson about the Northwest Coastal People, the first people of Canada. Since these people have access to food year round, they were able to live in permanent settlements. Have students build replicas of Huron longhouses out of small twigs, igloos built out of snow (make use of that upcoming snow day), or a Haida house out of popsicle sticks and a toilet paper tube for the totem.
  2. Create a reading unit based on the “Raven” stories of various tribes. While the totem pole at Epcot was created by a member of the Tsimshian tribe of Alaska, the “Raven” stories are told by various different tribes. Raven Tales are a great way to introduce Native American Mythology.
  3. Youtube is your friend. A quick search of “Raven Tales” brings up various episodes of a Canadian animated TV show that introduces younger children to Aboriginal folklore in a humorous and entertaining way. Each CGI episode is 24 minutes long and there are a few episodes available on youtube.
  4. Maple syrup is huge in Canada. Read together the book Sugarbush Spring by Marsha Wilson Chall and learn how natural maple syrup is made, a process that is exactly the way it was 200 years ago. Buy some authentic Canadian Maple syrup and allow students to compare it to pancake syrups such as Mrs Butterworths. How do they compare in color, smell and taste?
  5. The Northwest Coastal People (NCP) have a very distinct style in their artwork. Take some time looking at various pictures on the internet, discussing the styles and use of colors. (Also, look at the logo for the Seattle Seahawks – its based on artwork from the NCP). Have students try their hands at reproducing the style of NCP Art on their own. 

    Artwork of the Northwest Coastal People

I mentioned last week that many of the employees at each of the World Showcase pavilions are natives of the country to which they represent. Most come to Florida through a student work program through their schools and universities. These people are almost always extremely friendly and are willing to answer questions in regards to their country. Each country gives you a great opportunity to learn a few words of their language in which to say hello, goodbye, and thank you.  Since Canada has two official languages - English and French - most of the people you meet from Canada will be English speakers and ALL employees of Disney World speak English. However, if you are lucky and one of the employees you meet in the Canadian Pavilion happens to be from Quebec where they primarily speak French, here are a few choice phrases your student can learn ahead of time (you'll use these again in the France Pavilion). 

Hello - Bonjour
Goodbye - Au Revoir
Thank You - Merci


Inukshuks are human shaped landmarks made by the Inuit (Eskimo) people of Canada. They are often used to mark places that are sacred to the Inuit people and are also used as directional aides, mark migration routes of animals or places where fish can be found. Although most inuksuit appear singly, sometimes they are arranged in sequences spanning great distances or are grouped to mark a specific place.

Have some fun with your student researching and looking at photos of various Inukshuks located in Canada. Then, go make one of your own:  collect a variety of rocks from outside (Flat rocks are easiest to stack by you can use any shape) and wipe them clean. Choose a design and start stacking. You might have to try different combinations until you get the balance just right. 

Hopefully this will give you some great ideas for discussions to introduce your students to the Canadian Pavilion at Epcot. I do not know your children, so I can only make suggestions as to what are possible topics to work with. If you have any questions, comments or critiques, please, feel free to comment below :)

Next week we will take on The United Kingdom Pavilion.


  1. This is a great description of the Canada Pavilion with lots of good educational ideas. My husband and I are from Canada, so it's little wonder that this is one of my favorite spots at EPCOT. :-) I'm disappointed to hear that Off Kilter isn't there any more - we loved them! And yes, what is up with the one Canadian-themed restaurant being one of the priciest?! Maybe Tim Horton's will open up a coffee and donut shop there soon. LOL

    Looking forward to the rest of your series!

    1. Hi Kym. Thanks for stopping by :)
      I really enjoy the Canada Pavilion. I've spent alot of time visiting Ontario and living in Alberta, so I'm pretty partial to Canada as well. I was very upset to find out Off Kilter was gone as well. I'll report how the new Lumberjack show is when we go in June but I have a feeling it won't be the same. (I guess my husband will be the only kilted an at Epcot this summer). I could TOTALLY go for a Tim Horton's in the Pavilion.. Or even just a poutine stand would be great.


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