Yes, you read the title correctly. This summer, we spent A LOT of time at amusement parks. My dad works as an EMT for a local amusement park, so we were able to visit there for free three times this summer! The company that owns that amusement park also owns another park a little over an hour from our home, so we visited this park, also for free. On top of all that, we spent a weekend this Fall camping at a park North of here called Knoebel's Grove. This is a very family-friendly park and campground. We make it an annual trip each Fall season.
As we visited these amusement parks, I watched for learning opportunities. Obviously, the boys got lots of physical education. They walked (or most-times, ran) through the parks exercising their legs. They climbed stairs and ramps leading to various rides. They played at water parks. But there are other learning opportunities at various theme parks. Don't just discount those days as days off from learning! Count them! Learning happens! Here are a few examples:
Health: My dad is an EMT in the First Aid station at a park. When we visit that park, we visit my Dad. You, too, can take your child to the first aid station and ask them to give you a tour. If they're not busy, I'm sure they'd be happy to explain how they administer care. This is an opportunity for your child to learn about health-care happening outside their regular doctor's visits.
Science: Hershey Park has a zoo that you can visit for free with park admittance. We visit it every time we're in Hershey! The animals don't change from visit to visit, but we always find something new at which to marvel and discuss. Also, when playing at a water park, do the children spend time turning knobs and watching buckets fill with water? Are they playing with all the gizmos and controls that allow them to move water? That's science! Many parks have animal shows like dolphins or sea lions. Any animal observation is science.
Art: Take in some of the free plays, musicals, and shows. At Knoebel's Grove, my guys actually participated in a play! They called all the children on stage to act out a play while the narrator told a story. I was so disappointed that I didn't have my camera!!! But most parks have shows that are free with your admittance price. Watch one of these shows and call it art. Drama is art.
Social Studies/History/Economics: At Hershey Park there is a free ride/tour called Chocolate World. It explains the history of Hershey's Chocolate as well as the manufacturing process of chocolate. At Knoebel's Grove, they have a walk through museum featuring the history of mining and the history of Knoebel's Grove park. At Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster they have many displays featuring Amish Life and life on a farm.
Geography: As you enter the theme park, hand each child a map and tell them to navigate. Let them read the map and tell you which rides they want to ride, or where they want to go next and how you should get to that spot. At the end of the day, have them circle all the rides that they've ridden, or use a marker to trace the route you took through the park. A ride on a ferris wheel or monorail will also provide time to discuss locations of things around the park or in the park from a bird's-eye-view.
I can't believe our Summer is over. It seems as though I blinked and the time passed. We had a lot of adventures this summer, many of which happened at a theme park. If you are in a part of the country that allows you a longer summer, take in a theme park and call it school! Just don't tell your children you're calling it school, let them have fun and learn in the process!
Enjoy the ride!