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Teaching a Captive Audience

Since their reveal last month, the new Learning Lavatories at the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlilfe Refuge are impressing their “captive” audiences.

Ding Darling is the first of the 550-plus refuges in the National Refuge System to now feature educational imagery inside the center’s lavatories and on the outdoor wall leading to them.

Outdoor murals immerse visitors in a virtual underwater experience, where they come eye-to-eye with 3-D manatees and look up to see an alligator and other wildlife sculptures swimming overhead. Inside, the lavatories continue the interpretive underwater motif, with a tile mangroves mural and more wildlife sculptures.

And as of last week, nature-art images by well-known photographers — Terry Baldwin, Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez, Sylvia Guarino, Allen Hoffacker, Kent Jager, Lillian Stokes, and Michael Threlkeld — now wrap around bathroom stall doors at the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge.

The door wraps portray an anhinga, white pelican, roseate spoonbill, yellow-crowned night heron, green heron, reddish egret, and great blue heron. Inside the doors, guests can learn an assortment of facts about each species.

“The refuge had identified a major missed opportunity for educating visitors,” said Birgie Miller, executive director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS), which facilitated the project. “Whereas we see nearly a million visitors to the refuge each year, only about a quarter of those numbers enter the center. We were finding that many came to use the restrooms without ever stepping foot inside to see all of our wonderful hands-on exhibits.”

“We are proud to say we now have the coolest bathrooms in the state of Florida and in the entire national wildlife refuge system,” said Miller.

For more information, click here or call 1-239-472-1100.

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