Monday, January 31, 2011

Back to the Cretaceous Period

I've mentioned that I work at 6 different Kids Discovery Clubs (KDC's) around the park, so since my roommate happened to stop by this past week and take pictures, I thought I'd share about the Dinoland U.S.A. KDC in more detail.
After you walk under the Dinoland U.S.A. archway, you enter a period from the past; namely, the Cretaceous Period (at least most of Dinoland is focused around this time). Once you walk under the "Olden Gate Bridge" (ha...) you follow the pathway to your immediate right and stumble across the KDC.
Here, guests of all ages can help a presenter solve their prehistoric puzzle. After digging up fossils from 4 different dinosaurs, the presenter accidentally mixed up the dinosaur's jaw bones.
You're asked to reach in, grab a jaw, and take a shot at matching them up. We often ask Guests to look at the teeth and colors of the fossils to try to identify which goes with which. It's also a great way to talk about how we can look at fossils and bones to determine what animals ate. Once the bones are back together, they generally look somewhat like this...
The next challenge is to name all of the dinosaurs (I'll post the answers in the next blog, for those of you who'd like to take a guess in the comments below). After all of the dinosaurs have been correctly identified, we like to share a conservation message with our Guests (go figure, a Conservation Education Presenter likes to share a conservation message... huh...).

Each message is up to the presenter, but one of our favorites is about protecting endangered animals. We ask kids if they see dinosaurs around in their backyards, and why not? We discuss how it's important to protect animals that are still alive today, and ask them to come up with several ways to do that. It's really fun to see what their creative minds come up with.
At the very end, we give them a Kids Discover Club Card with a T-Rex stamp as a reward for all of their hard work and let them go back to share their archaeologist endeavours with family and friends. It's also fun for them to check out the American Crocodile chillin' out across the path.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Catching Up...

This past week and a half completely flew by. The day after Traditions, we jumped straight into normal training with the rest of the Conservation Education Presenters. Over the course of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, we absorbed as much information as possible. It was data overload, but we all felt overloaded and loved what we were doing, so we were excited to get started. During the mornings, we typically began in the classroom, talking over topics like different learning styles, the purpose of the different Kids Discovery Clubs (KDC's), and then ventured out into the park, where we walked through several of the KDC's. After lunch, it was generally back into the classroom, where we discussed messaging and how to connect with Guests. Our trainers really tried to keep things enjoyable and exciting. We usually had a few interactive elements added to our training, such as creating our own presentation, attempting to engage fellow presenters with the three conversation elements we had been learning about: the hook, meat, and message. Sometimes the afternoons became somewhat long, but exciting nonetheless.

On Saturday, while everyone else had the day off, the presenter who was also slightly behind and I came in to catch up on the training we had missed. It went pretty quickly, as some of the information was repeated. We learned how to work the radios (our form of communication in the park), safety, our mission statement, etc. We also took time to explore the two trails in Animal Kingdom: Pangani and Maharaja Jungle Trek. By the time we were done at the end of the day, we were roughly comfortable with what we would be doing come Monday. We took an assessment, which was basically a few questions to make sure we were okay with the information and that they hadn't missed anything in our training (it was painless), and we went on our merry way to enjoy our Sunday off.

On Monday we began our adventures into the parks. Throughout Monday and Tuesday we were broken into several groups of roughly 5 presenters, each with a leader. The leader went through the KDC with a Guest while we watched, learning how to run the KDC and observing how the conservation message fit into the conversation. We had a different trainer each day so we would have the opportunity to observe different styles of presenting. After that, we were given the reins and took over the KDC for the rest of the time.

Our rotation schedules are really nice. We usually start off the morning in the Oasis at an animal location (such as the babirusa, macaw, muntjac, etc.) or right in front of the turnstiles with an insect/invertebrate or prop of some sort (such as a bone, molt, or the poop game... way cooler than it sounds). After that, our shifts at each animal location or KDC are generally about an hour or less, unless we're closing at the end of the day or at the Conservation Station, which is quite a hike and much more efficient to keep presenters there for 2+ hour periods. Each day we are assigned a different letter, so we'll never have the same rotation schedule two days in a row. In case we were feeling slightly scheduled in our day (ha, ya right...), at random times of the week, we might also have a Harambe School or Dino Sue Presentation thrown in. Keeps it interesting!

For the rest of the week (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) we were paired with another presenter and given our wings. Our days begin meeting at 8:15 and out in the park by 8:45ish.We were assigned a letter together and left to navigate the rotation, KDC's, animal locations, and backstage areas on our own. It was great! The day's seem to go by so fast. It can get a little  chaotic at times, but then you're off to refresh at another station. By time you're done at 5:15, you're exhausted, but it feels good in an odd sort of way. I've found that I love working at the animal stations! Something about talking about Gibbons, Siamangs, and our every-so-smiley crocodile (hopefully sliding in a conservation message or two) has been absolutely entertaining.

Sunday will be my first day completely independent and with my own letter. It'll be the first week of a scheduled work week with our assigned days off. As Ellie would say from Up... "Adventure is out there!"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Disney Traditions

For some reason, I had a problem with my fingerprints at Casting, so I ended up going back in to be printed again and waiting for a few days while my fingerprints were processed. Because participating in "Traditions," a class that all new Cast Members must take, was required before I began training, everything was postponed. Today I was finally able to go to Traditions!

My class started at 8:00 am at the Disney University, which is backstage in Magic Kingdom. Our leaders wanted us to be there at 7:30 am, and being somewhat unsure of where the Disney University building was and worried about being late, I ended up getting there around 7:10 am. Needless to say, I was on time.

Once a Cast Member had looked at our drivers licenses and checked us in, we were each given a card with a Disney character (mine was Peter Pan) and instructed to wait in the cafeteria area.
Once our character was called, we went upstairs to begin our class. Once we chose a spot at one of the many circular tables in the room, we were given a sticker version of a Cast Member name tag and a Disney Traditions book. Throughout the day, we discussed Disney's past, present, and future. We watched many tutorial and information videos, but they were, for the most part, in a fun, Disney fashion. We learned about Cast Member conduct, Disney Values, Disney's Common Goal, and the Keys of Disney (Safety, Courtesy, Efficiency, and Show).

In our table groups, we worked together to participate in some healthy competition. For one activity, we were asked to list as many Disney Characters as we could within a 90 second time period. The activities we did were used to demonstrate the importance of team work and, I feel, to help us get to know each other a little better. As prizes for winning the activities and for answering questions, we were given "critters." I managed to collect them all, except for Mickey. Oh well, next time!

About an hour before lunch, we were given our ID's and went on a quick walk through of the Utilidoors, which make up the first level of Magic Kingdom Park. The park Guests see, is actually the second floor. It was an interesting experience, and for all you curious non-Disney employees out there, if you'd like to see the Utilidoors, be sure to check out the Keys to the Kingdom Tour! After the Utilidoors, we walked around Liberty Square with our table group, looking for the four Keys of Disney and how they were demonstrated in the park.

After that, we headed back to Disney University for lunch and to continue our discussion of the four Keys. Mickey made an appearance towards the end, and once we had wrapped up our class, we were allowed to claim our shiny, new name tags! Around 3:30 pm, we were deemed educated in the ways of Disney Traditions, and released into the prospect of beginning our official Disney training.

I went home, changed out of my "Disney Look" attire, and headed out to Disney's Hollywood Studios to test out my ID and enjoy the Rock'n Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. I'm thinking I could get used to this!
Tomorrow I jump into training with all of the other Conservation Education Presenters at Animal Kingdom. I'm slightly anxious about being behind, but there's another girl behind in her training as well, so we can get caught up together!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

California Grill: A Review from the Top of the World

On October 25th, Mom, Dad, and I ate at the California Grill, which we made reservations for back in July as his birthday present. The California Grill is located on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort, which is at the very top and offers some spectacular views.
For our reservations, we checked in at the desk on the 2nd floor of the Contemporary and rode a private elevator up to the restaurant. We sat in the lounge by the bar for a few minutes until our reservation time to sip some drinks and enjoy the view. When the sun started to shine in though the windows, a shade came down part of the way, keeping us from being blinded, but still letting us see out.

Once our table was ready, we were led to the dining area and given a table right along the window. We were given our menus, and Mom and Dad decided to order a bottle of wine.

They enjoyed the wine, but I don't think it was something that stood out enough to prevent them from wanting to try something new a second time around. We were given bread and sea-salted butter at our table.

My parents both really enjoyed the bread, and, if i remember correctly, managed to polish off the basket. For an appetizer, they ordered the famed Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Pesto, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Basil. They thought it was pretty tasty, but were expecting something a little more than a single, round ravioli.
Then it was time for the main dishes! I was eyeing up the flatbreads and ordered the "Chefs Garden" Flatbread, which was Heirloom Tomatoes with Baby Mozzarella, Balsamic Onions, and Micro Basil. It was really, really good. The crust was thin and crispy and the flavors all worked together really well. I would definitely order it again and recommend it.
Mom decided to go with the Crispy Seared Chicken with Olive Oil Crushed Potatoes, Chorizo Succotash, Green Tomato Marmalade, and Sherry Jus. She thoroughly enjoyed her meal, but wasn't a big fan of the chorizo. She's never had it before, so I'm not sure if it was because she doesn't like that type of meat or it just wasn't appealing here, but other than that, the chicken was deliciously juicy and potatoes tasty.
Dad decided to order the Oak-fired Fillet of Beef with "Loaded" Mashed Potatoes, Broccolini, and Teriyaki Barbecue Sauce. He really enjoyed his dish as well. He didn't add much commentary, but his entire plate was polished off at the end of the meal. 
For dessert, we ordered the Bananas and Caramel, described as crispy baked phyllo squares layered with banana, caramel, mascarpone mousse, and caramelized banana, and the Valrhona Chocolate Cake, which was warm chocolate cake with molten center, cappuccino caramel crunch ice cream, sweet whipped cream and coffee caramel sauce. 

Dad said his Bananas and Caramel were good. He didn't say spectacular, but it fit what he was looking for in a dessert at the moment. Mom really enjoyed the Chocolate Cake. The center was gooey and molten (as promised) and she managed to finish it for sheer enjoyment of chocolaty goodness. I'm not sure exactly what it was, but they brownish, caramely-looking piece in the middle of the picture was very tough and chewy. Mom said it tasted good, it was just hard to chew and get apart with your teeth gracefully. 

During our meal we were also graced with the beauty of the sunset. The atmosphere of the restaurant was chic and stylish while still casual and relaxed. It was a beautiful view and completely worth the extra money we paid for the meal. 
As an added bonus, the California Grill has an outdoor balcony from which you can watch the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, called Wishes. If you dine earlier in the day, before the show as we did, you simply have to bring your dining receipt back to the desk on the second floor, and they'll gladly bring you up to the restaurant so you can enjoy the view. We were a little early and also treated to a distant view of the Electrical Water Pageant. 
The view of the fireworks was definitely a highly recommended experience! Even if you (for some random reason) don't enjoy your meal, the fireworks will make the experience well worth it.
Overall, I would highly recommend the California Grill to everyone looking for a unique dining experience on Disney property. Though the prices may exceed some budgets, it's an experience that you'll remember forever and won't regret. 

If you've dined there, feel free to let me know what you're experience was like and what you think in the comments!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Moving In

Yesterday was my first day of "official" Disney Professional Internship events. My move in date was January 11th, so we decided to come down the night of the 9th and enjoy some time in the parks on the 10th, which was nice. On the 11th, I had to be at the Patterson Court Housing Complex by 8:00am to start checking in. We were all ushered into a room where we signed some papers and given a number. After that, we were lined up in the order of the number we were assigned and allowed to choose our rooms. We could choose from 2 or 3 bedroom apartments (with 2 interns per room) and, if we knew someone, who we wanted to live with. After we had our apartment numbers assigned, we were given a packet with our parking information, keys, important codes, the rules of the housing complex, etc., which we went over as a group. The entire day was full of new information, but all important. (ooh, and we were given free lunch pails.... bonus!)

After we knew our room assignments, we were allowed to go. Some people were assigned times to go to Disney Casting, but because I was not given a time, I was told I should just go to Casting. Once there, I was given another packet with the time of my Disney Traditions Class as well as the time of a meeting I had with the Animal Programs Coordinators later in the day. We were all led from room to room, filling out tax information, signing papers stating that we would follow the Disney "rules" so-to-speak, and comply with the "Disney Look." We were also fingerprinted and had a background check. It was somewhat of a lengthy process, but Disney seemed pretty organized and people were very friendly. They were there to help you if you needed it, and more than willing to answer any questions you might have. By time I was finished, it was around noon.

I met up with my family and boyfriend and we headed to Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney for lunch (which is an AMAZING sandwich shop, in case you were wondering... so good...). We relaxed for a little while and shopped before I had to be back at Casting at 2:00pm for my Animal Programs meeting. 

The meeting was for all of the Disney Professional Interns working in the Animal Programs Department. Most of us were Conservation Education Presenters, but there were also some individuals that would be working in other areas around Animal Kingdom (like Animal Nutrition, Animal Behavior, etc.) and in Epcot at the Seas with Nemo & Friends (working as Chemistry, Marine Mammal, or other Interns). We were quite a diverse group. We all introduced ourselves, stating our colleges, majors, and which program we would be working in, talked about some general information, and then divided up into smaller groups (according to our program) to discuss the specifics of our first week and a half of training. We were given packets with our schedules, a Cast Member atlas of the property, and maps of the specific locations we would have to drive to during our training. It looks like it'll be busy, but exciting and fun at the same time. They seem really relaxed about everything (except stressing that you MUST be ON TIME!, which is completely understandable and favorable for people who would otherwise have to wait for latecomers), and really want us to enjoy ourselves on this internship. I'm so excited to start Traditions tomorrow! I also have costuming afterwards, so I think I'll find out what I'll be wearing on the job. Should be a great day!

After the meeting we were given time to ask questions, and then I met up with the rest of my entourage to move in to my apartment. The Cumberland Park apartments are really nice, much better than the dorms at UW-Whitewater in my opinion. I'm in a 2 bedroom, which also has 2 full bathrooms. Also provided in our apartment is a washer, drier, ironing board, iron, tv, wireless internet, fridge, microwave, oven, dishes and silverware, furniture, and each room has a walk-in closet. I'm not sure if I'm forgetting anything, but the apartments are fully furnished and seem spacious enough for the 4 of us. 
After we unloaded the car we ran to Walmart for the essentials, which is about 2-3 miles away. (I highly recommend a GPS for any new Disney Interns! My Garmin is sooo handy!) The rest of the night I chilled with my parents and boyfriend at their hotel room for a while before heading back to the room to unpack and get to know my roommate. By midnight I was unpacked and settled in.

Today I had the day off and had time to explore. As I didn't have my Disney ID yet, I was unable to get into the parks without buying a ticket, so I explored Downtown Disney and the Monorail Resorts instead. I can't wait for tomorrow!