Bernheim’s Children at Play Network receives the APGA Program of Excellence Award

By Claude Stephens

We are thrilled to announce that the Bernheim initiative, the Children at Play Network (CAPN), received the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) Award for Program Excellence. 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 amazing 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.

According to the APGA, CAPN is exemplary of great public garden programming. CAPN was honored for its notable 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. 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.

CAPN favors collaboration and networking to model best practices and increase collective capacity. More than 90 organizations and schools are now networked with us 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. This initiative allows Bernheim to reach communities that may not have the opportunity to visit the 16,000+ acre forest and arboretum.

When Isaac W. Bernheim established Bernheim Forest ninety years ago, he recognized the importance of connecting all people with nature, regardless of their age, geographic location or socio-economic background. Today, with that same spirit and through play, we can go beyond our borders to create the next generation of environmental stewards.

A special thanks to PNC Bank’s Grow Up Great initiative, Brown-Forman Corporation, Lift a Life Foundation and Norton Foundation, whose funding makes this program possible. With their support, we enhance the quality of a child’s play environment, and pave the way for a lifelong interest and wonder in nature.

The APGA has more than 550 member institutions located across the United States and around the world. They are committed to serving public garden professionals through information sharing, professional development, networking, public awareness and research. Bernheim also received the APGA award for Operational Sustainability in 2018.


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