Local Mom Min Derry is back with another review about her latest adventure to Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge and once again after reading one of her reviews I have added it to my MUST list…
Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge6 Sawmill Road, Medford, NJ 08055 visit website>
There are days in a parents’ life when we just want to get away, I mean, literally, to the shore, to the mountains, wherever it may be, simply get away from the hustle and bustle of all of our daily activities in town. In fact, there are moments when we wish we could simply close our eyes, take a deep breath, and be telepathically transported to our sanctuary – no having to coordinate multiple schedules, booking, packing, etc. Yesterday, we did just that, and it was almost that easy! Just a jump, hopscotch and stone’s throw away from Philadelphia is the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, located in Medford, NJ. Cedar Run Refuge covers 171 wooded acres around the crystalline Cedar Run Lake. Its mission is the preservation of the pinelands; environmental education and wildlife rehabilitation (think nature sanctuary for fatigued parents and ecological education for kids). Meandering through the dirt roads that lead to Cedar Run, I was struck by the pristineness of the land. It reminded me of the Hawk’s Nest along the Delaware River in the Catskills, NY (not so bad for not having to drive almost 200 miles).
We attended the Knee-High Naturalists program for 3-5 year olds and the day’s topic was “Fall!” – they explore nature through songs, skits, crafts, and more. It was a 90-minute guided program split into 6 Stages (with an optional 7th Stage):
Stage 1. Storytime 1 – over the bridge, our Naturalist led a lovely, completely age appropriate, “interactive,” read aloud about different types of Fall leaves.
Stage 2. Craft 1 – back to the Nature Center, they completed a craft out of tracing out and cutting their hand and arm prints on brown construction paper, gluing them against a white background (which became the tree trunk and branches) and finger painting red, yellow, brown and green Fall leaves. Finally, we stamped some owls and bats around the tree.
Stage 3. Storytime 2 – our Naturalist rounded up the toddlers on the floor of the Nature Center for another round of Storytime. This time she read from a fictional book about animals and Halloween.
Stage 4. Craft 2 – each toddler got a tray, dotted it with their favorite Fall colors, rolled as many acorns as they wanted around the tray, and created beautiful patterns!
Stage 5. Nature Hike – each child was given a large ziploc bag and encouraged to collect as many different types of leaves as possible along our nature hike based on size, shape and color. The hike went on a toddler appropriate pace and rhythm, pausing along the way to observe; explore; share, and guide.
Stage 6. Parachute time – when we arrived into a clearing there was a brightly colored parachute awaiting us! We “shared” some of the leaves that we had collected, tossing them on top of the parachute. We held the parachute, sang, danced, ran in and out from under it while our Naturalist facilitated the toddlers to ‘share’ and ‘take’ turns with various ‘toddler management strategies.’
Stage 7. Independent hiking time – from there we were free to finish the rest of the hike and trail on our own and visit the resident animals in the sanctuary/rehabilitation area before making a full circle back to the Nature Center.
I am certain that there are other worthy forest and animal sanctuaries out there, even as local as in the Philadelphia tri-state area. I am sure that those may be larger, better funded and contain a greater diversity of flora and fauna. But what makes the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge stand out is its genuine commitment to education. They live out this commitment by welcoming, arms wide open, children and their families. Cedar Run gets an A+ for commitment to the cause as tailored to children; flexibility and family friendliness!
This being my first time, I brought the stroller out (see “What not to do,” below), but instead of directing me on my own to the handicap accessible route all around the Nature Center in order to meet with the rest of the group doing storytime at the bridge over the lake, the helpful staff offered to help me carry the stroller down the steps of the Nature Center directly to the bridge! Sometimes, it’s just that little helping hand that changes the entire experience and saves a parent from having to arrive at the event huffing, puffing, sweat dripping down the forehead, gasping for air, and trying to force the ever calm and friendly, “I can do it gracefully,” parental smile (come on, you all know what I’m referring to). Throughout the program, they continued to put me at ease about the placement of my stroller; taking our time finishing our hike; using our unoccupied craft room in the Nature Center to nurse my infant, etc.
Also, it is not unbeknownst to any parent that a toddler, after having the time of their lives, may refuse to leave – which is exactly what my 3 year old did. After trying all of the parental techniques available out there, including giving them more time; getting down to my knees and having a little ‘dialogue;’ encouraging; motivating, bribing (come on, we’re going pumpkin picking next!)… you get my point, short of carrying a kicking and screaming child over my shoulders – another helpful Staff Member offered to walk my toddler and they literally ‘held hands and skipped’ all the way to car! Woodford Cedar Run LOVES KIDS.
How To Get There…
Cedar Run is close to other major South Jersey town centers, such as Medford Lakes, Marlton, Evesham, Cherry Hill, etc. That means that even if you’ve never been to Cedar Run, you might be pleasantly surprised to realize that it is not too far from some of the other family attractions in the general area (along the major intersections of S. Route 73). When getting there, just remember that the last major road from which you will turn (into Borton’s Road in order to meander into the Refuge) is Hopewell Road, which is also known as Taunton Road; therefore, you can follow the latter two interchangeably. Another helpful landmark, which can be potentially deceiving, depending on your perspective, is that turning into Borton’s Road, from Hopewell/Taunton, you’re actually entering and will cross through a residential development called, The Preserve (oh the wonders of suburban sprawl!). When you’re passing the mickey-mansions of the Preserve, you’ll probably think that your previously trustworthy navigator has failed you, but stay with it, because it’ll lead you to the actual nature preserve lands of Medford that hosts the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge. Follow the signs to Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge and you’ll end up at a circular gravel driveway in front of the red wooden building that is the Elizabeth Woodford Nature Center. Should the few parking spaces around the circle be taken, continue off the circle onto the larger parking lot adjacent to the Nature Center.
How To Do It…
- They have a gazillion educational programs for all age groups (see their website), including birthday parties!
- Most children’s programs require pre-registration and there may be a nominal fee per child. For young children, an adult MUST stay to participate.
- Most sessions include some time outdoors so dress for the weather.
- Hiking shoes are preferable to sneakers.
- Explain to your children in advance the difference between a forest preserve and a park/arboretum; between an animal rehabilitation refuge and a zoo…
- Leave enough time for independent hiking; exploring the small amphibian & reptile display in the Nature Center, and/or independent play in the playroom at the Nature Center where they have some animal related toys, puppet theater, and coloring activities.
What Not To Do…
- Skip the stroller, and carry the infant and/or walk your toddler instead. The trails are meant to be walked, but if you’re focused on pushing your stroller over dirt and gravel, it’ll take away from your experience and enjoyment.
- Don’t run, shout or feed the animals as many are there rehabilitating and they are trying to preserve as natural a habitat environment as possible.
Thanks Min Derry for this awesome review!