Wild Intelligence is a nonprofit organization located in Athens whose goal is to connect children and adults to nature through the use of community and environmental involvement. WI teaches the fundamental human skill sets that have arguably been lost over the years through the dwindling exposure to the forest’s elements. Offering numerous programs that foster self-discovery, teamwork, and adventure, WI is devoted to reconnecting to the simple, yet oft-forgotten ideals of community and self through experiencing the great outdoors.
The core classes for adults are ongoing for 10 weeks out of the year. Youth programs range from each season and age group. The four youth groups include ages 4-6, 7-12, 7-14, and 13-17. All of the outdoor classrooms and campouts are located on Orange Twin Conservation Land’s 155 acre wilderness only 4 miles from downtown Athens. Skillsets acquired in each program include fire building, knife etiquette, animal tracking, birdcalls, and shelter building. Both youth and adult programs are very similar just with different ranges of intensity, and all classes can be adjusted depending on a participant’s previous expertise.
Specific workshops are also offered throughout the year and vary in topics depending on requests and interests from participants. Some past workshops have discussed animal and roadkill processing, food fermentation, eco-philosophy, and other environmental issue discussions. WI likes to base their classes off of concerns that are never taught in a school system as a way to open awareness and reflectiveness to the local community.
Sarah Hubbard is the current Executive Director at Wild Intelligence. She continuously promotes WI ethics through her minimalist lifestyle and daily interactions with students. “It isn’t hard to connect to nature when you’re a kid,” says Hubbard. “With kids, I can almost always count on a day of adventure, fun, and some sort of learning about the world I live in.”
An Athens friend, Shannon Martinez, has known Hubbard for over a decade. Martinez says that Sarah “has an absolute unshakable belief that children know what they want to learn and that you just have to listen. She trusts their natural instincts and encourages them in a way that I think is exceptional.” Hubbard believes WI has been her undeniable calling over the past five years.
Martinez’s 14-year-old daughter, Lucy, participates in the youth and apprenticeship programs. Lucy has been given the opportunity to be involved through scholarship money that WI raises at benefits. “I do a teen year long program with kids my age who like to be in the woods and camp successfully,” says Lucy. “[During campouts] we usually sleep by a fire every night with no roof over our head and that’s awesome.”
If you want to help more children get outside and learn through Wild Intelligence, there are several ways to contribute. WI hosts yearly scholarship fundraiser events at the local Jittery Joe’s Roaster on Barber Street. They also request tax-deductible donations on their website, or specific items from their “wish list” can be given. These items include valuable supplies such as firewood, sketchbooks, seeds, bird feed, and colored pencils. Every donation can help another child become more connected to the unique community and opportunity at Wild Intelligence.