Friday, January 20, 2012

Piedmont Wildlife Center & Leigh Farm Park

I can't tell you how many times I have driven by Piedmont Wildlife Center ("PWC") and Leigh Farm Park and not even known it.  In fact, one of my friend's has a backyard that abuts the property.  I had no idea.  And such a shame, too, because this is a great program -  I wish I had known about it earlier and really look forward to going back!

Leigh Farm Park is 1 of 2 Heritage Parks the City of Durham has (the other being West Point on the Eno).  The 7-acre core of the 82-acre property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.  There isn't much at the park outside the old buildings currently used by the PWC besides a disc course and some picnic benches.  Yet right now the City is doing some site plan development to make the park more friendly to the public and a full-fledged "city park."  What I read is that a grand opening is slated for Spring of 2013.

That means that the PWC is really the bones of this park.  It is enough, and it is fantastic.  The PWC offers programs to children and adults of all ages that include things such as birthday party rentals, summer camps, a mentoring program, teacher workday special events, a camp and program geared specifically towards teenage girls (the Artemis program), and so many more creative and unique programs.

My friend and I took our toddlers to the Dragonfly Walk, for kids ages 0-5 years old who are accompanied by guardians.  These walks are held the 2nd Monday of the month (see schedule at the website listed below).  Registration is required and the cost is $10 for children over 1 (accompanying adults are free).  The program starts at 10 am and is scheduled to last until 12 pm.

I had 2 concerns going into this: 1- would our toddlers be entertained for 2 whole hours and 2- being outside on a cold, January day sounded not fun.  But honestly, this was a near-perfect experience.  Each month's walk has a different theme and activities throughout the 2 hours that rotate quickly.

We did bundle up and the program started outside with "heat creating" activities (like freeze tag) and some experiments where the kids were introduced to the theme and got hands-on with the topic.  I was also worried that the instructor was talking over the kids' heads, but the joke was on me for doubting my 2 year old's ability to understand.  The children followed Ms. Natalie easily.  She did a great job with them and had an easy, natural way with kids.

After the introduction to our theme we went on a walk through the property, woods, and wetland to find things pertaining to the subject of the morning.  We didn't lose a single toddler to the wetlands mud, either!

To thaw out a little, we entered one of the very old and historic cabins on the Leigh Farm property.  We happily sat on the old, dirty floor (wear clothes you don't mind getting messy!), did a craft again related to the theme and very age-appropriate, listened to Ms. Natalie tell stories, and had a snack.  Some of the animals that live on the property were on display in the cabin, too, and our boys loved looking at the snakes (what is it with boys?!).

I honestly could not believe how fun and easy this event was.  It was educational, too, which gave me another parental warm and fuzzy.

The grounds of the PWC do need some TLC.  The buildings are old and haven't been given the care they needed over the years, but it looks like, given the information I found from the city, Durham agrees with me and I look forward to Spring 2013.

Yet even until then, my friend and I highly recommend these programs, and the Dragonfly Walks in particular.  Education + outdoors + fun + crafts + Popsicles = a winning combination and well worth the money.

Piedmont Wildlife Center & Leigh Farm Park
http://www.piedmontwildlifecenter.org/
364 Leigh Farm Road
Durham
919-489-0900


Leigh Farm Park
http://www.durhamnc.gov/

3 Comments:

At January 20, 2012 at 9:42 AM , Blogger Wendy said...

We love their summer camps!! A great place!

 
At January 20, 2012 at 11:27 AM , Blogger MK said...

They used to run an emergency wildlife clinic as well but the vet who held the rehabbers licenses left so they lost the clinic. It's a really neat place and does such good work.

 
At January 20, 2012 at 6:48 PM , Anonymous Laura R said...

Agree, their summer camps are such fun! Full of exploration, discovery, being outdoors and much more. My oldest is already asking to go back.

 

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