Due to a heat index exceeding 90 degrees, the Millennium Trail and Elm Lick Trail will remain closed until further notice.

How a Virus Extended the Reach of Bernheim’s Mission

By Claude Stephens

In the one-year anniversary of Covid, people are beginning to contemplate how a viral pandemic has changed them as individuals, as organizations and as global citizens. We are almost assuredly going to navigate the future differently because of it. Probably in ways that none of us are currently expecting.

One interesting result of the pandemic for Bernheim’s Children at Play Network is that it extended our reach well beyond our region and even internationally. The CAPN takes a regional approach to the work of knitting together the many organizations and individuals that we like to call play champions. We do that work because we see free play in the outdoors as a way to nurture passion for the outdoors in our youngest citizens. We see play as an integral step in developing the next generation of environmental stewards. That mission isn’t confined to our institutional borders and much of our work has always been outreach. Prior to Covid most of our work was within 100 miles of Bernheim and occasionally in surrounding states.

The pandemic inspired us to shift some of the state approved trainings we provide to early learning professionals from in-person workshops to virtual formats. At the same time, early learning communities everywhere began searching further afield for training opportunities. All of a sudden the CAPN was receiving inquiries from Canada and other states. We now have friends that have only seen Bernheim from flying over it on digital maps. And the CAPN has helped people rethink their outdoor learning environments thanks to the magic of satellite images and on-line meeting platforms.

We recently worked with Yeshivat Noam School which is a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school just outside of New York City. After spending a few moments chuckling about our vastly different accents we got down to the work that we have in common – exploring the best ways to connect children to nature through the design, use and programming of the time children are engaged in play. The conversation was lively and Bernheim now has new friends in New York. Since the workshop we have already exchanged emails to share stories and exchange ideas. All because of a virus.

Without the pandemic we may never have made these new connections. We look forward to exploring the good that came from the past year with you as we contemplate our forever changed future.

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