Bernheim recognized for reaching beyond borders
Bernheim Executive Director Dr. Mark Wourms, right, and Children at Play Network Director Claude Stephens hold the Award for Program Excellence.

The Children at Play Network offered by the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest received the American Public Gardens Association’s 2019 Award for Program Excellence.

Presented Tuesday, this annual award recognizes exemplary public garden programming that displays an innovative spirit by pioneering a program with a discipline related to public horticultural institutions.

Launched in 2017, CAPN helps organizations, schools and communities create places to play outdoors in order to better connect children to the natural world. Additionally, the network offers free play days and training seminars to grow a broader community of nature-based free play advocates.

“Bernheim has displayed innovation, originality and the establishment of vital plant connections with the Children at Play Network,” said Casey Sclar, Ph.D., executive director of the American Public Gardens Association.

According to the association, CAPN is exemplary of great public garden programming. It was honored for its work to reach beyond institutional boundaries, raising awareness of the importance of outdoor play, providing play opportunities and assisting in the design of play environments.

“This award is a testament to our vision of reimagining the landscapes of childhood so that all children can benefit from playing outdoors,” said Claude Stephens, Bernheim’s CAPN Director. “The quality of a child’s play environment sets the stage for a lifetime of passion, interest and wonder since it is through play that children build their first connections to the natural world.”

Stephens said the Children at Play Network favors collaboration and networking to model best practices and increase capacity. More than 90 organizations and schools are networked to support a common vision around healthy child development through play.

“Much of our current work is focused in urban areas to bring nature play to children with the least access,” he said.

Dr. Mark Wourms, Bernheim’s executive eirector, noted that CAPN allows Bernheim to reach communities that may not have the opportunity to visit the forest and arboretum, which covers more than 16,000 acres in the Clermont area of Bullitt County.