SCVi Inspires Learners with Imagineering Project

Disneyland and Walt Disney World are world famous in part because of their attention to detail. The mission of the Walt Disney Company is to “entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.” It’s with all this in mind that the 4th and 5th grade facilitators at iLEAD Santa Clarita (SCVi) conducted the Imagineering Project.

Imagine If You Can

Facilitators Shawna Brown, Audrey Godde, Brent Call and Alan Kingsley challenged learners to harness the inspiration and magic they associate with Disney and direct that energy toward building a theme park with the level of attention Disney uses. Learners were introduced to this driving question: “How can we develop a visually appealing land that tells a story and evokes an emotional response in our guests of all ages?”

The 4th and 5th graders formed teams and were challenged to create an experience that their guests would never forget. “The magic factors for Disneyland are their attention to detail and their ability to work together as a huge, well-functioning team,” Brown said. “We desire to build up these qualities in our learners.”

The Final Products

The Imagineering Project challenges learners to produce two final products: a proposal and a model of an attraction or ride. According to Brown, learners created proposals for a new land at Disneyland, including info on landscaping, layout, decor, accessibility and connecting all to an overarching theme. Sample ideas the learners created are places such as Dessertland, Noodleland and Unicornland. Some chose to present their products visually through digital mediums such as Google Slides, while others told the stories of their lands through writing. The methods they used to present their models was wide open to learner choice as well, according to Brown.

“The project has a lot of voice and choice built in by nature. Essentially, we take the learner’s initial dream and build in logistical considerations needed to build a functional theme park,” she said. “We ask them how they will account for those considerations, and they are in charge of finding the solutions.”

The Learning

The facilitators were excited about many aspects of this project and the learning it provided.

Facilitator Brent Call said, “I saw the learners work with enthusiasm and energy that only comes from full commitment to a project they really feel connected to. They experienced the feeling of being able to peek behind the Disney curtain. It motivated them to produce quality work.”

iLEAD’s Director of STEAM Initiatives Kathleen Fredette said, “This is ‘working smarter and not harder’ at its best. I also love that they have shared not only the products but the process so others can benefit from their learning and not have to start at ground zero.”

The Partners

Expert partners also played a key role in this project. Chris Halsted, who worked for the Entertainment Division at Universal Studios and also as a Disney Imagineer, signed on to help critique and evaluate SCVi’s learners’ work and to mentor them through the process. Halsted knew the importance of the mentoring he received in his career development and wanted to pass on the favor to learners.

“Creativity is one of our most vital and important human qualities, but it can seem like such a nebulous thing. It exists inside your head, and yet no one ever gives you directions of how to use it,” Halsted said. “Disney Imagineering is unique in their development of a program to guide, structure and develop creativity. Once you learn that structure and process, it’s a process that will help you throughout your life.”

Halsted did a Zoom tour of his design building workshop and provided learners with brief talks on electronics, servos, solenoids, skinning of robotic figures and even some puppetry. “I enjoyed how involved the learners and facilitators were,” Halsted said. “They asked excellent questions.”

In addition, Halsted complimented the facilitators’ process in structuring and developing the project.

“Those facilitators involved were also inspiring, communicative, and very helpful,” Halsted said. “It was a pleasure to be involved with the project.”

Challenge to Others

Brown and her team would love to see other facilitators, learners and schools take on this project, which stems from a partnership between Khan Academy and Disney.

“It was originally geared toward middle school high school, so our job was to simply adapt it down a grade level to meet our needs,” Brown said.

Brown invites others to visit the original Imagineering in a Box from Khan Academy and to access all of the resources she and her team members created.

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