One of my family’s favorite attractions in all the World is Magic Kingdom’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMR). To me, it’s a classic coaster designed to thrill without being too intimidating—and that’s exactly what appeals to my younger two kids. It’s one ride the grownups and almost-grownup kid can go on together with the not-so-big kids, and we’ve been known to ride it over and over and over…and over.
As much as we love BTMR at Walt Disney World, I think we’d love the Disneyland Paris version even more. Here it’s plussed so much it has its own island!
The theming at Disneyland Paris’ Big Thunder Mountain is similar to its American counterparts, being set in the Old West gold-mining town of Thunder Mesa. Legend holds that long ago in the 1800s, treasure seekers came by the hundreds, hoping to strike it rich. Once the gold ran out, though, the mines were abandoned. Now Guests can tour those deserted caverns and crevices, but they better be careful. Those mine trains are known to twist and turn and plunge headlong down the rocky terrain at speeds over 40mph!
The boarding station is across the water. To reach the island, trains go underground through tunnels. The return journey is a little harrowing, as your ride vehicle must outrun falling rocks and explosions to escape before the tunnel collapses.
Mine for gold! I’m borrowing this activity from a previous post in which special Guest, author Susan K. Marlow of the Circle C Adventure Series, stopped by with a very cool tutorial.
Purchase some “fools gold” (iron pyrite, which you can buy inexpensively at any rock-lovers store or hobby shop). You may need to break it up into small pieces, then mix it with sand and gravel. Don’t break it too small, though, or it may slosh away when it’s sifted. Fill a trough with water and dump the sand/gravel/fool’s gold mixture into the bottom of the trough. A plastic dishpan would work just fine. Follow the steps below to reveal your treasure.
- Find a pan—anything with sloping sides will work.
- Choose a likely location—a nearby creek would seem natural or just your backyard.
- Fill your pan with sand and/or gravel.
- Dip your pan into the creek, or pour water into the pan. If doing this at home, use ICE COLD water to get a sense of the real joy of panning in a mountain creek.
- Shake the pan in a sideways, back-and-forth manner. The gold will now start to settle to the bottom of the pan.
- After a couple minutes of shaking, pick out the bigger rocks that are getting separated. Make sure than you don’t throw away any nuggets!
- Tilt your pan away from you a bit and start letting gravel fall out. Remember, the gold is rapidly settling to the bottom of the pan now.
- Add water as necessary to keep a good “soupy” gravel mixture—it helps the gold settle.
- Keep tilting the pan more and more, and letting the gravel on top fall over the side. The bottom of the pan should always be lower than the lip of the pan, though, or the gold will fall out.
- As you get to the last bit of sand in your pan, adding a circular motion to your shaking will make the gold separation more obvious—not more effective, but more fun to watch.
- The last bit of sand takes care, and is the slowest part – as long as you don’t tip your pan too far, though, the gold will stay in the pan. The traditional declaration of success is “Bonanza!”
- Get a small glass container.
- Put your gold into the container – it will stick to your finger in the pan, then wash it off into the container.
- Display the container on your mantel to impress the neighbors!
- Repeat as needed.
SCHOOL SUBJECT: History
SKILL LEVEL: Elementary
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