When you’re done exploring Rafiki’s Planet Watch and are ready to gain more insight into conservation techniques as they apply to Animal Kingdom’s Harambe Wildlife Reserve—or to the wilds of Africa and throughout the world—take the Wildlife Express train back to the village and enter the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Pangani means “place of enchantment” in Swahili, and the lush natural setting of the Trail certainly fits its description. This walking attraction features up-close encounters of gorillas, birds, hippos, and other animals in a field research-themed design. As we’ve noted many times before, every Disney Park attraction tells a story. Here, we have a training facility where researchers impart information to each other—and to us Guests—through various means. We see classroom setups where we can gather information and further our education. We see chalkboards with scrupulous notes and visual aids to enhance our learning. And throughout the Trail, we encounter representatives from Animal Programs, portraying the researchers themselves, who guide us along the Trail answering any questions we, the students, may have and enriching our experience.
The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is a fascinating scene, even for the casual observer. Nature has been allowed to remain somewhat wild here. Animal footprints are embedded on dirt paths, trees and vines disguise the aviary entry, a leaky wall drips in the hippo-viewing area, and a waterfall cools and enhances the gorilla habitat. The Trail offers a unique encounter with Mother Earth, allowing us to infiltrate the animal kingdom without encroaching upon or endangering creatures in any way.
Along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and the Savannah of Kilimanjaro Safaris are sizeable termite mounds. The ones here, of course, are faux models of what might be found across the plains of Africa, but they serve to authenticate this region of Animal Kingdom.
I don’t want these critters anywhere near my home, but I find termite mounds pretty fascinating! Take a close look at the incredibly complex structure of termite colonies researched by Scott Turner at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry of the State University of New York and this article from eHow. Scott Turner says termite mounds are “…one of the most sophisticated animal-built structures on the planet.” His studies, and those of his colleagues, have literally exposed the inner workings of termite mounds and have shed light on the similarity of these habitats to the vein, vessel, and airway systems of the human body.
Termite mounds consist of a network of tunnels and chambers. To ensure survival of the million+ family members, these tubes are opened and closed as needed to maintain gas levels and to moderate temperature and humidity. Similarly, the human body’s tube-like blood veins and vessels of the circulatory system and passageways of the pulmonary system regulate body temperature and oxygen dispersement.
Today, study these diagrams and learn facts about the human circulatory system and respiratory system. Have your students draw these life systems on paper or create models of them using modeling clay and colored wire or string. For further activity, try this Science Buddies project simulating blood flow with straws.
SCHOOL SUBJECT: Anatomy
SKILL LEVEL: Middle Grades
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