Connecting humans to nature, themselves, and each other – this is what Wild Intelligence has set out to do. Thankfully, we are not alone in this endeavor! The past year has generated many new partnerships within the Athens area and beyond, and we have a lot to be grateful for.
One new relationship we are excited about growing is with the School of Integrated Living (SOIL) in Black Mountain, NC (http://www.schoolofintegratedliving.org/). Two of our lead instructors, Sarah Hubbard and Bernard Cook, are visiting SOIL next March in order to attend a nature connection workshop titled, “Reaching Nature Connection: East Coast Outdoor Conference for Early Childhood Educators, Teachers, Counselors, Parents, and Mentors.” It is an exciting opportunity for these two mentors, and a chance for Wild Intelligence to tap in to the knowledge and experience of a number of leaders in this field. Our goal here is to broaden our circle of instructors, support like-minded organizations through cross-marketing, and to continue to develop the skills of our current staff. The conference is co-sponsored byThe Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers, Forest Floor Wilderness Programs, Asheville Forest School,Wild Intelligence, andEarthpath Education.Congratulations Bernard and Sarah!
We know, as they know, that participation in programs like these matter. As they point out, “the world is populated with empowered, skilled, conscious leaders [who are] inspired and dedicated to create radical, regenerative change and healthy reciprocal relationships.” Think about that! Healthy reciprocal relationships. If this were our cultural gold standard, I can’t help but believe that the national conversations this past year would have been very different. Imagine that employers, employees, and stockholders could trust one another to behave with integrity, and to meet their respective obligations to one another. Imagine that citizens felt a keen sense of personal responsibility to serve and did not have a sense of entitlement to freedoms not earned. Imagine that we consistently demanded the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law. Would we not like to see ourselves and our neighbors inspired to relate to one another, and to our world in such a manner? Wow.
It all starts with connection. Without it there can be no trust. So we are reaching out. In addition to partnering with SOIL, Wild Intelligence is also working to broaden our relationships here at home. We have received a grant from AthEducates to purchase supplies for a pilot program at Whitehead Elementary School. We will be working with a small group of students participating in an after school program for a period of six weeks. These students will spend time outdoors in the surrounding area learning about nature and developing new ways of expressing themselves while illustrating what they learn utilizing different art mediums. We will use our findings from this project to consider the value and feasibility of running an ongoing program of this kind in the future. In addition, Sarah Hubbard is facilitating a program at Freedom to Grow UnSchool this year, and Freedom to Grow graciously hosted our recent Wilderness First Aid course taught by SOLO Southeast. Sarah has also been teaching a ‘Building Connections’ class at the State Botanical Garden that has been an overwhelming success. The Botanical Garden has been very supportive and is looking forward to partnering with us in the future. On top of all this, Sarah had the opportunity to teach with Richard Cleveland and Victor Wooten this fall, and so strengthened our relationship with their respective nature awareness schools. It is our hope that all of these endeavors are leading towards more connection, awareness, and trust.
I am also exploring how we might partner with Meg Abbott of Holistic Therapies and Consulting (http://lassetertherapies.com/about-us/meg-abbott/) to incorporate art therapy techniques into ‘Coyote Mentoring’. Meg has had a range of valuable experiences, among them the opportunity to work at Camp Pegasus, which is a social skills camp for children diagnosed with autism, PDD, ADHD, and other learning difficulties. We are hoping that we can collaborate with her in the future and possibly involve her in our 2018 programs that will be part of a research study on autism. Brian Barger at the Center for Leadership in Disabilities is facilitating our participation in this NUCFAC grant through the Georgia State University Research Foundation.
What other kinds of connections can we be building in a world full of division? I keep asking myself this question: personally, professionally, in my neighborhood – what kind of healthy, reciprocal relationships have I not yet imagined? This type of outward looking introspection (I know, I did a double take there too) is particularly significant for Wild Intelligence, which is in the process of re-visioning itself and undertaking a variety of transitions in search of regenerative change through healthy reciprocal relationships. I am reminded of a book I admire by Max De Pree called, Leadership is an Art. It is a well respected description of participative management, a highly successful model used by the Herman Miller Corporation for generations. In this powerful little book Mr. De Pree states that, “in the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” He says further, “tribal storytellers, the tribe’s elders, must consistently work at the process of corporate renewal. They must preserve and revitalize the values of the tribe.” It is important to not forget one’s history. Balancing these tensions comes down to healthy, open communication. Connection. Something we have learned we need to become better at. Herman Miller had been working on ideas such as these for over 35 years at the time Leadership is an Art was written, and the work was ongoing. Let’s hope that Wild Intelligence is continuing to grow and struggle 35 plus years from now! And let’s hope the same is true for SOIL, other present and future partners, and you.
It is my hope that you will all join us sometime soon and help us grow towards our full potential. And that we all offer thanks to our staff, board members, and sponsors! We can’t do it without you.