New Orleans Trip – Friday – Day 3
After a night filled with more tropical thunderstorms (another 3+ inches of rain between midnight and 8:00 a.m.!), we finally had a dry day today! Our day started with breakfast at the hotel. Afterwards, we drove about 20 minutes south of downtown to some nearby swamps and bayous. After arriving at the Jeanne Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, we boarded on two tour boats and took a tour hour swamp tour. During the tour, we saw lots of different types of flora and fauna. Se saw cypress trees growing right out of the swamp, among other things. But the highlight was seeing more than a half-dozen alligators in the swamp! Their sizes ranged from 4 feet long to 12 feet long. Our tour guides/boat captains told us a lot biodiversity in the swamps. After learning more about the different plants and different sizes of Alligators, we all had the chance to hold a 2+ foot long alligator (about a 2-year old).
After the swamp tour, we took a short bus tour of both the Upper and the Lower Ninth Ward, the area of New Orleans hit the hardest in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina. While some of the houses and other structures have been fixed up or rebuilt, we saw large amounts of houses that were still destroyed, abandoned, and/or in other various stages of disrepair. The students were shocked about how much damage still remained almost 7 years later.
We then headed to the Audobon Aquarium of the Americas. After a quick lunch, we had a chance to explore the exhibits and animals in Aquarium. The students completed a scavenger hunt they toured, helping them guide their way through the various displays. The hunt was focused around the concept of Biodiversity. Included in the Aquarium were a large variety of fish, some sea otters, tropical birds, jelly fish, and even an albino alligator. Among others, the museum had exhibits comparing the Amazon and the Mississippi Rivers, and what sea life was like in the Golf of Mexico. Students also had a chance to touch sting-rays! Our time at the AAA ended with seeing a 3D IMAX movie.
With the weather being so nice, we did a lot of walking this afternoon. After our IMAX movie, we walked through the French Quarter to the famous Preservation Hall for a private New Orleans Jazz Concert. Preservation Hall was founded 50 years ago with the mission to help preserve the tradition New Orleans Jazz style from the first part of the last century (as almost a counter to the British Invasion). We then had a one hour private performance (besides for the 5 musicians, our group was the only people in the entire building! What a concert! All the musicians were virtuosos on their instruments and gave on heck of a concert. The band played music from various styles of early Jazz – from ragtimes, to one-steps, to dixiland, to jazz funerals. The band took time between songs to teach us about earlier jazz music and composers. They also took questions from the kids in our group about their musical careers and musical talents. I know I personally (and noticed this with most of the kid) could not keep from tapping my toes during the entire set! (as a note, almost all photographs are not allowed to be taken Preservation Hall, so there are not a lot of pictures from this part.
After the AMAZING concert, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked around the French Quarter some more, exploring restaurants and shops. With the weather finally being nice (and it being a Friday), there were lots of people to entertain us on the street – from single-player to multiple person jazz performances, other street musicians, and magicians. We then had a dinner at the Hard Rock Café, and then even walked the 1.5 miles back to our hotel (through the warehouse/convention center district). When we got back to the hotel, we asked the kids to reflect on their day and tell the teachers/chaperones what their favorite thing was that they did today and what was the most interesting thing that you learned.
Tomorrow (Saturday) we will spend one more day in New Orleans, but then head home after dinner (so there will not be post of Saturday’s activities until after we get home. I’m also going to work on a way to get larger/better resolution copies of the picture up aon the website when we get back to WI in case anyone is interested. Tomorrow we’ll be spending the morning at the zoo, return to the French Quarter one last time for lunch (so the kids can have one more taste of the great food down here), and our trip will end with a tour of the National WWI museum followed by dinner. Then it’s back on the bus for 17 hours of driving.
Many kids were commenting tonight about how fast the last 4 days have gone by! The adults were saying the same thing, too. Everyone has been having a great time and enjoying lots of new experiences.