Written by Chris Jaskiewicz, ICON Park president and CEO
Growing up in Central Florida, I know firsthand all of the wonderful adventures and educational opportunities Greater Orlando offers. Every child has a favorite part of school, and like for most students, mine was always field trips.
From learning all about space exploration at the John Young Planetarium (now the Orlando Science Center) to being inspired by the Orlando Orchestra to exploring the area’s great attractions, I always came home from field trips energized and ready to absorb more information.
After moving back to my hometown with my family several years ago, I was excited to share my love for Central Florida with my children. They would finally be able to experience the same places that made me so eager to learn back when I was in school.
As the leader of ICON Park, I’ve made a strong effort to set the entertainment complex up as the ultimate field trip destination. Not only is it home to Orlando’s most exciting attractions, but it’s packed full of learning opportunities for students of all ages.
Fun, Educational Opportunities
ICON Park’s signature attraction, The Wheel, gives school groups the chance to learn from new heights. The 400-foot observation wheel provides a fun experience for students while offering a unique view of Central Florida from a new perspective – high above the clouds. During the ride, The Wheel’s in-capsule audio system allows students to learn about the history of Ferris wheels while exploring the science, technology, engineering and math that make this mechanical marvel turn, creating a full circle learning experience.
To ensure students get the most out of their ride, we’ve also created a series of downloadable resources for teachers, including lesson plans, discussion topics, activities, quizzes and projects.
In addition to The Wheel, there are several top-tier museums right onsite at ICON Park. Museum of Illusions features over 50 interactive, immersive and distinctly incomprehensible exhibits based on math, science and psychology. Students are prompted to learn about the tricks of perception and how the human brain works as they move through each exhibit.
SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium introduces students to a range of scientific topics and encourages excitement and curiosity about marine phenomena in the natural world. From feeling the spiny skin of a sea star to gazing at sharks swimming overhead, students can explore over 20 marine exhibits, 2,000 sea creatures and 250 species in an immersive setting.
Madame Tussauds Orlando provides students with an entertaining and educational opportunity to experience the world’s most fascinating celebrities, influential world leaders, historical figures and sports icons. This wax museum is dedicated to the meticulous art of sculpting the most popular celebrities from the worlds of film, television, music, politics, history, sports and the arts from yesterday and today.
Not only are we dedicated to crafting unforgettable experiences for students, we’re also strong supporters of teachers. We’re proud to offer the Teacher Pass to all of our local classroom heroes. Any teacher in the State of Florida is eligible to receive unlimited access to ride The Wheel at any time for a full year. Each month, we also send out a special newsletter to over 14,000 educators focused on field trips, school programs and other content.
Leadership Commitment to Education
While ICON Park as a whole works toward being a welcoming destination for students and teachers, members of our company’s leadership team have also made a personal commitment to supporting education.
When I’m not planning exciting new projects at ICON Park or attending my children’s sporting events, you can find me volunteering with Junior Achievement, serving as a member of the board of directors. Founded in 1919, Junior Achievement is the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices.
I was extremely proud to be able to support Junior Achievement’s mission by hosting a Spirit Week for Oak Ridge High School’s Junior Achievement Academy and making a $3,125 donation to the school’s program on behalf of ICON Park. This school is located in the same neighborhood I grew up in, which meant a lot to me.
This past December, I had the opportunity to speak to the high school’s Junior Achievement students. I prepared and gave a presentation on ICON Park’s industries (entertainment and real estate), its history, the company’s departments and their functions, the company’s values, and shared a “return on investment” analysis that it was considering for a specific project. I was able to personally connect with these future leaders of tomorrow who grew up in the same place I did and share with them “If I can do this, you can too.”
To benefit a broader number of students in Central Florida, I pledged ICON Park’s support of the JA Inspire Virtual for over 13,000 8th grade students from both Orange and Osceola School Districts. The JA Inspire Virtual is a career fair that offers students the opportunity to learn about Central Florida’s high-wage, high-demand jobs, careers opportunities and the education pathways BEFORE planning their high school course work.
In addition to my work with Junior Achievement, ICON Park’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, John Goodman, and Director of Sales, Samantha Tudor, are both heavily involved with Orange County Public Schools. John is a proud member of the Orange Technical College Advisory Board, working directly with the Administrative Office Specialist Program. Samantha enjoys participating in the school district’s annual Partners in Education Program. In April 2020, ICON Park was able to provide 1,750 complimentary tickets to The Wheel for Orange County Library System’s “Summer Reading Program” program.
If you’re a teacher or homeschool parent, ICON Park is proud to welcome you. From endless educational opportunities to exciting adventures, we’re sure your students will leave filled with awe and an eagerness to learn. To learn more about our educational opportunities or school group offerings, visit iconparkorlando.com/groups/schools-groups or call 407-601-7907.