Lift a Life grant helps extend outdoor free play to more children in Louisville neighborhoods
Bernheim’s Children at Play Network (CAPN) received a $25,000 grant from the Lift a Life Foundation to expand its Seeds for Urban Play project, extending the benefits of outdoor free play to more children in Louisville’s urban neighborhoods.
Bernheim established the CAPN to help organizations, schools and communities create amazing places to play outdoors and apply best practices to better connect children to nature.
According to Bernheim’s CAPN Director Claude Stephens, the Seeds for Urban Play project specifically supports the social, emotional and intellectual development of young children by increasing access to healthy outdoor free-play.
“This project bridges the gap of cultural, geographic and teaching barriers that separate urban children from the benefits of nature play education, events and opportunities,” said Stephens.
Stephens said studies repeatedly show that self-directed free play in nature is not only essential for health and well-being but also contributes positively to academic performance in children.
“All children benefit from free-play in outdoor environments but access to play in nature is not equitable. This project addresses that inequity and helps to establish what we hope is a lifelong connection with nature that fosters the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Stephens.
CAPN is partnering with Play Cousins Collective (PCC), a nonprofit providing family engagement, children’s programming and community resources to empower African-American families to improve outcomes for young children. The two organizations will provide free play opportunities in urban neighborhoods.
“We are excited to be partnering with Bernheim Forest and the Children at Play Network to create healing and liberating spaces for children at play,” said PCC Executive Director Kristen Williams.
“We have so much to learn from the Play Cousins team that will help us as we make sure nature play is available to all our children. That is important work nationally, not just here in our local communities,” said Stephens.
The Life a Life Foundation grant provides play training for preschool teachers and PCC facilitators, free play days at Bernheim and in urban neighborhoods, shareable nature play kits, online resources and an urban play conference in the fall of 2019.
Stephens said Bernheim is grateful for the support from Lift a Life Foundation, and the ability to continue building a network of regional champions who have the tools and training to facilitate outdoor free play beyond Bernheim’s borders.
“When he established Bernheim Forest ninety years ago, Isaac W. Bernheim instructed us to make sure all people regardless of race, gender or economic status could have access and the opportunity to connect with nature,” said Stephens. “Today we work to bring the gift of nature to places beyond our geographic boundaries with projects like Seeds for Urban Play.”
Seeds for Urban Play was launched last year with support from the Brown-Forman Corporation. CAPN partnered with New Directions Housing Corporation and ChooseWell Communities to provide play training and free play days at four community learning centers in Louisville’s urban neighborhoods.
The Lift a Life Foundation, funded by David and Wendy Novak, provides charitable grants and scholarship to people in need.
For more information on the Children at Play Network visit childrenatplaynetwork.com.