Lessons from Theme Park Design for Students
Inside the Classroom

Getting Students Moving: Lessons from Theme Park Design

If it’s summer, then it must be theme park season. Visiting a theme park can be a great way to spend vacation time with family or friends, but did you know how carefully a theme park’s features are designed to compensate for challenges?

Like our classrooms, theme parks face certain obstacles when managing guests. One challenge is the need to keep visitors moving. If a park’s visitors don’t move throughout the park, they will miss out on entertainment and spending opportunities. Parks’ design teams often apply a few basic principles to their design to encourage movement.

As educators, we also need to find a way to encourage our students to keep moving. You can apply these same basic principles to your curriculum as you plan! Here are three important examples you can use.

Establish landmarks

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To encourage visitors to move throughout a park, designers will often create and build major landmarks that can be seen from a distance. A towering castle, an imposing mountain, or a tall roller coaster all encourage guests to move throughout a park to explore these landmarks and their surroundings more closely.

In your curriculum, are you establishing “landmarks” by giving students a chance to look ahead to future learning? Take steps to help build curiosity about future learning. Consciously establish opportunities for students to see future topics and content.

Create motion

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A guest is much more likely to move forward into a new area of a park if they can see that this area is full of motion and energy! As a guest looks ahead into a new part of a park, designers ensure that they can see that area’s energy: guests will see sneak peeks at rides, characters, and activities to take part in. Guests are less likely to move into a new area if it seems quiet or uninteresting.

As you design your curriculum, be sure to create previews of future learning that are dynamic. Give students a chance to see ways future learning can be applied practically. Highlight ways that future learning will be engaging and fun.

Create transitions

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Theme parks are often divided up into themed “lands.” As guests move from one land to another, a park’s design team often makes a conscious choice to create an engaging transition. For example, when guests enter an Old West-themed land, they may enter through the palisades of a fort, hear Western music, or be greeted by a sheriff patrolling on her horse. When a guest sees this level of engaging detail, it pulls them forward and encourages them to discover more.

In your curriculum, be thoughtful about how you transition from unit to unit or from concept to concept. Make an effort to include engaging details, especially as you begin new content; this will help to pull students forward into new realms of discovery.

Give each of these principles a try as you plan this summer. You’ll see that they will motivate students to strive for greater understanding!

About the Author

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Chris Martin

Chris has a BA in geography and American studies from the University of Southern California. Before joining Edgenuity, he worked for several years in K-12 classrooms, serving a wide student audience in traditional and blended learning environments. He is currently an Editor for Edgenuity’s Product Development team and has worked for the company since 2010. He enjoys the opportunity to build effective and engaging social studies content that will reach all students and help them succeed in the classroom.