The second stop on our 2023 Play Date Tour is Louisville, Kentucky, where we will explore “The Wild Side of PLAY” with nature-based and adventure play at the heart of a day spent surrounded by and exploring the 16,000+ acres of the Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest.

Friday, August 11, 8:30am-6:30pm*

The Wild Side of PLAY

Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest
Louisville, Kentucky

*There are optional networking/play activities later in the day.  Stay a while!

“Watch for Wild Things”
Morning Nature Hike (Optional)

Meet at the registration area at the Bernheim Education Center at 8:30am.  We will visit Earth Measure and the Big Prairie, watching for the beauty and activity of our native flora and fauna.  Led by Carolyn Waters, PhD, Senior Program Manager at the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands + Free Play Facilitator for the Children at Play Network at Bernheim.


KEYNOTE: “The Wild Side of Nature and Nurture” – Tracey Gaslin, PhD, CPNP, FNP-BC, CRNI, RN-BC, Chief Executive Officer, Alliance for Camp Health

We all understand that play is essential to our health and well-being.  In our worlds of busyness and overdrive, we lose site of the value of natural play.  This session will help to outline the relationship between play across the lifespan and our ability to imagine a better state of mind, create space for learning, and heal through hope and belonging.

Morning Concurrent Session 1 – “Wild Places Heal Us: Resilience – Empowerment – Health”

Research clearly supports the idea that time spent in nature, and time spent playing, is beneficial to humans across a broad range of health metrics. This session examines outdoor play as a modality to address toxic trauma, as a mechanism to confront systemic racism, and as a way for pediatricians to support child health. Come prepared to share your experience related to the healing power of play in wild spaces.

Morning Concurrent Session 2 – “Make it Wild: DIY Natural Play Environments”

Sometimes the best way to start down a new path is to jump in and take the first step. Participants in this session will go home with an idea of how to initiate the opening move toward a natural play scape with natural materials that are available almost anywhere – rocks, ropes, logs, chainsaws, muscle, and found loose parts.

Afternoon Concurrent Session 1 – “Deciding on Wild: Why Nature Play?”

There are lots of different directions one could take when deciding on a playscape design. This session explores one of them – the natural approach. We will hear the rationale behind three newly designed play environments from the perspective of the people in charge of seeing them come to fruition. Each will explore the decision-making process, the strategies involved in planning, and the hoped for results.

Afternoon Concurrent Session 2 – “Getting Into Wild: Accessibility in Natural Places”

Regardless of where you plan to provide a place to play, accessibility across its many different meanings is a challenge. When you decide to turn natural landscapes into play landscapes the challenges magnify. Hear about accessibility and adaptive play strategies from professional occupational therapists focused on meeting the needs of individuals that experience barriers to play.

Plenary Session – “Designing Regional Play Networks: The Power of Cooperation”

Play is collaborative. Addressing the advancement of play thinking at the regional level supports everyone. Using the experiences of Bernheim’s Children at Play Network (CAPN) as a jumping off point this session catalyzes the collective knowledge of those gathered to think about creating networks of networks of play champions. Let’s cooperatively think through the future of play.

“Where the Wild Things Are” Forest Giants Hike (Optional)

In conjunction with their 90th anniversary in 2020, Bernheim welcomed Danish artist, Thomas Dambo, to construct three giant sculptures throughout the arboretum using recycled wood from the region. We are thrilled to welcome Mama Loumari with her children, Little Nis and Little Elina, and her third baby Giant, who is currently living in Mama’s belly.  The Forest Giants are within walking distance of each other; it’s an approximately 2-mile round-trip loop to see all three.  Learn more at


Schedule Overview

8:30-9:45am – Watch for Wild Things
Morning Nature Hike (Optional)

9:30-10:00am – Check-In with Coffee & Light Refreshments

10:00-11:30am – Welcome & Keynote Session, “The Wild Side of Nature and Nurture”– Tracey Gaslin, PhD, CPNP, FNP-BC, CRNI, RN-BC, Chief Executive Officer for the Alliance for Camp Health 

11:30 11:45am – PLAY Break & Snack Time

11:45am-12:45pm – Morning Concurrent Sessions (choose 1):

  • “Wild Places Heal Us: Resilience – Empowerment – Health”
  • “Make it Wild: DIY Nature Play Environments”

12:45 1:45pm – Lunch + Networking

2:00-3:00pm – Afternoon Concurrent Sessions (choose 1):

  • “Deciding on Wild: Why Nature Play?”
  • “Getting Into Wild: Accessibility in Natural Places”

3:00-3:45pm – Wild Play Practice Session
Playcosystem Play Break & Snacks

4:00-5:00pm – Plenary Session
Designing Regional Play Networks: The Power of Cooperation”

5:00-6:30pm – “Where the Wild Things Are: Forest Giants Hike” (Optional)

6:30-8:30pm – “Let’s Get Wild”
Playcosystem Happy Hour + Networking
(Available for purchase – Las Catrinas Mexican food, Just Chillin Ice Cream & West Sixth Brewing on tap)