When organizing our trip to Florida there were so many more options than time we had available. Trying to figure out what to do and what to skip was the most daunting task. Anything we cut came with a great sigh of disappointment – the options were limitless.
On our third day of the trip we were set to spend our day at EPCOT – Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Walt Disney original vision was a park that explored what the world could be. It is made up of two parts – one part Future World – investigating the sciences – and the other part World Showcase – an investigation into 11 of the world’s cultures. There were so many options we can choose from to enrich our time at EPCOT, but we decided to go with the “Behind the Seeds” tour – a behind the scenes tour looking at the “Living on the Land” attraction – an indoor greenhouse using cutting edge technologies to grow fruit and vegetables with less space and waste. The approaches they have taken are vast, and the food from this one small greenhouses is used daily at EPCOT in some of the restaurants.
I wasn’t sure how the kids would enjoy it – I mean agriculture and plants are not always the biggest hit with the 15-17 year old crowd – and yet students were fully engaged. They talked about genetics, bacteria, grafting, and genomics in the lab – looking at the techniques and equipment used. We went through a research lab focused on chemical free pest management approaches – which is what Disney uses – the biggest being the use of small bugs to prevent bacteria or fungal infections in plants, and eliminating the need for pesticides. A lot of the behind the seeds tour takes you through working laboratories and shows you what kind of jobs you could get and research you could do with a degree in Biology. This real life application of Science 10 and Biology 11 topics of botany and conservation was rich and meaningful – and just the beginning.
Inside the greenhouse itself there was vertical growing, hydroponics, the use of fish to filter water and plants, circular rotation growing, top down growth, self-watering beds and more. If there was a way enhance the sustainability of a crop by resource and space management – Disney was trying it.
And this ties into their name – EXPERIMENTAL prototype community of TOMORROW. Or maybe it should really be TODAY. In a changing landscape and with growing populations, the need for more food, on less space, is essential. Seeing the approaches and rational behind what can be done with so little resource is encouraging. Scientists are working today to ensure we can have a happy, healthy (and well fed) future.
Along with our lesson in agriculture, we also got to see their fish farms, baby alligators, a 9 lb lemon, mickey mouse shaped cucumbers, and do a spices smell test. It is amazing what they have behind the scenes (or SEEDS, as the title of the tour suggests). Students were engaged beginning to end.
So if you are in the EPCOT area, and at all interested, it is worth the few extra dollars for this tour. They sell tickets in the Land Pavillion, downstairs next to “Soarin'”. Enjoy it – we did!