Planning a fun and educational field trip can feel impossible, but closing the gap between the classroom and life outside of school just got easier. Students may find it hard to believe, but amusement parks do have educational value, particularly for STEM programs. Amusement parks offer students the opportunity to learn about physics, engineering, potential energy, kinetic energy, friction and gravity, all while allowing them to ride roller coasters and play fun carnival games. A field trip to an amusement park strikes the perfect balance between fun and educational, so check out the top amusement parks in the West in the list below.
Universal Studios Hollywood, California
Soaking up the sun in Los Angeles, California, Universal Studios Hollywood is letting students in on the secrets of Hollywood. Universal Studios Hollywood offers three educational workshops, VIP Student Backlot Tour, WaterWorld Technical Tour and Special Effects Tech Tour. During the VIP Student Backlot Tour, students will have the opportunity to visit a closed movie or TV set, learn how a sound stage works and see the Universal Studios Hollywood prop warehouse. In the WaterWorld Technical Tour, students will learn about the mathematical equations that go into making the special effects for WaterWorld happen. The Special Effects Tech Tour walks students thorough the technology of special effects, such as green screens, stop motion photography and digital imagery. When an education workshop is booked students will also have access to all of the rides and attractions in the park. In their downtime, students can ride Jurassic Park: The Ride or Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride.
Disneyland Park, California
Spreading a love of magic, Disneyland in Anaheim, California is devoted to sharing a love of learning with students. Disneyland has multiple education workshops in almost every subject, from STEM programs to the humanities, including workshops in physics, chemistry and marine life conservation. In the physics workshop, students will learn about different forms of energy and how light is refracted through glass. In the chemistry workshop, students will learn how to build models of different molecules and how certain elements are needed to create energy. During the marine life conservation workshop students have the opportunity to learn about humans’ impact on marine life and steps that they can take to protect marine life. In their free time students can meet some of their favorite Disney characters or ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
The Adventuredome, Nevada
Located within Circus Circus in Las Vegas, the Adventuredome is five acres of science and thrills. The Adventuredome offers two educational workshops for student groups, Physics Day and Science of Juggling. During the Physics Day workshop, students will learn about acceleration, gravity, centrifugal and centripetal force and how these concepts can be seen in the wonder of roller coasters. In Science of Juggling, students have the opportunity to see how physics and Newton’s Laws of Motion apply to juggling and other circus acts. Students will also get the chance to meet a real life clown as they demonstrate the physics principles and walk students through a workbook program to further their understanding of how roller coasters or juggling and physics interact. When students are not learning about the science and art of juggling, they can ride the Canyon Blaster coaster or play a round of mini-golf at Pirates Bounty.
Wild Waves Theme & Water Park, Washington
Making waves in Federal Way, Washington, Wild Waves Theme & Water Park is capturing student attention with multiple high thrill roller coasters. Wild Waves has dedicated School Days for student groups in June, but welcomes groups any time during the season. For student group visits, Wild Waves offers workbooks for students to work through while at the park, one workbook focuses solely on physics and the second workbook covers all subjects. In their down time, students can ride the Timberhawk Ride of Prey coaster, the Klondike Gold Rusher coaster or the Antique Carousel.
Knott’s Berry Farm, California
From small family farm to famous theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm is dedicated to enhancing student learning with educational days and tours. Knott’s Berry Farm has educational days devoted to physics, engineering and early California history. During educational days, students will be immersed in learning through live demonstrations, genuine artifacts and encounters with historical re-enactors. Educational tours are available for most of the year and cover multiple subjects, including the American Revolutionary War, Westward Movement, Early California history, geology and physics. Knott’s Berry Farms has roller coasters from mild to extreme thrill for all levels of thrill-seekers. In their free time, students can ride GhostRider for a major thrill, Voyage to the Iron Reef for a milder thrill or test their luck at one of the many carnival games at Knott’s Berry Farm.
California’s Great America, California
Enjoy the sunshine and warm weather with a trip to California’s Great America in Santa Clara. The park offers specific educational days for engineering and physics and tailored field trip days any time during the season. During the engineering workshop students will learn about how to build a roller coaster from a roller coaster engineer. The physics workshop focuses on how the laws of motion, energy and gravity affect roller coasters. California’s Great America also offers dedicated school days, when the park is only open to school groups. When they are not learning about how kinetic energy and gravity affect roller coasters students can ride Gold Striker, Sally’s Swing Set or Patriot.