If you want your students to experience nature as it really is—unsullied, wild and exciting—take them to Audubon Nature Institute facilities for eye-opening learning adventures.
Audubon is a nonprofit organization that operates a family of 10 museums and parks dedicated to nature. The institute’s mission is neatly summed up in its eight stated objectives:
- Provide a guest experience of outstanding quality
- Exhibit the diversity of wildlife
- Preserve native Louisiana habitats
- Educate a diverse audience about the natural world
- Enhance the care and survival of wildlife through research and conservation
- Provide opportunities for recreation in natural settings
- Operate a financially self-sufficient collection of museums and parks
- Weave quality entertainment through the guest experience
And this isn’t all just lip service. Go to any of the organization’s City of New Orleans-owned facilities, listed below, to experience for yourself Audubon’s commitment to excellence, education and conservation.
This zoo, located in historic Uptown New Orleans, mixes exotic animals, top-notch education programs, lush gardens and numerous natural habitat exhibits. The Louisiana Swamp Exhibit features white alligators, nutria, Louisiana black bears, cougars and river otters. Add in the zoo’s daily animal presentations and it’s no wonder Audubon Zoo is often ranked among the country’s best.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
You definitely can’t beat the location: Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is located in the corner of downtown New Orleans’ French Quarter, directly facing the Mississippi River. Here’s your chance to safely explore the wonders of an underwater world. Touch a sting ray, view a Caribbean coral reef from below, check out some massive sharks. And take advantage of the fact that you’re at the intersection of two of the United States’ most iconic bodies of water: the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River. The Gulf of Mexico Exhibit is a 400,000-gallon wonderland that shows off the Gulf’s impressive array of underwater species. The Mississippi River Gallery is dedicated to educating people about the importance and protection of the great waterway.
Entergy Giant Screen Theater
A lot of people want a state-of-the-art theater system inside their homes—a 4k digital projection system with a top-of-the-line multidimensional sound system that lets you watch the coolest nature movies in the world and feel like you’re there. But, well, most of us can’t afford that. So why not try the next best thing and check out the Entergy Giant Screen Theater, which boasts exactly that technology in a beautiful downtown New Orleans venue? Watch aquatic- and nature-themed films just steps from the Mississippi River and when you’re done, walk next door to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas so you can compare the movie to the real deal.
Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
Ah, bugs. They surround us all the time but go largely unnoticed. Well, not at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. This kid-friendly museum, located just down Canal Street from the aquarium and theater, is North America’s largest museum devoted to insects and their relatives. Get the thrill of education and unique experience as you see what the world looks like from a bug’s-eye view and wander through the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit. If that’s all a bit too buggy for you, you can head into the Asian garden that’s filled with thousands of butterflies. It’s no wonder this museum has been named one of the top museums for kids.
A Devotion to Education
One of Audubon’s core missions is to educate its audiences about the natural world. And the organization has several methods to carrying out this education. From preschoolers taking part in the Wild Starts learning experience to adults enjoying wine and cheese night tours of Audubon’s facilities, the institute offers fun educational opportunities for all ages.
For a nominal fee, schools and school groups can get educational classroom experiences, as well as outreach vans, teacher workshops and education chats at exhibits.
Combine that with the many camps, programs and travel opportunities offered through Audubon and you get an organization that is truly dedicated to its mission to educate.
Committed to Conservation
Of course, Audubon Nature Institute is also committed to preserving the beauty and integrity of the natural world. Conservation is a major theme at all of Audubon’s locations, as the organization goes to great length to both preserve nature and teach others about the importance of doing so.
In addition to these everyday efforts, Audubon has engaged in several ongoing conservation projects that have had a tremendous impact in Louisiana and beyond.
Audubon’s Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) project verifies that the Gulf of Mexico is fished responsibly. The project works with partners and contacts throughout all of the Gulf states to promote sustainable fishing practices that ensure that this important body of water and the seafood it contains retain their world-class status.
By employing expert animal care professionals, Audubon Nature Institute has also prevented the demise of an endangered species over the past two decades. These experts will often travel across the state border to the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge to ensure the survival of this critically endangered bird species. Thanks to Audubon’s efforts, the population of sandhill cranes at the refuge has stabilized. Fewer than 35 cranes existed in 1975, but today the population at the Mississippi refuge alone is between 120 and 130 birds.