Otters After School 2017 Information Letter

Greetings and Welcome!

Thank you for registering your child for Wild Intelligence’s Otters Afterschool Year Long Mentoring Program!

At Wild Intelligence, we believe in long-term mentoring relationships. Therefore, we are grateful for the opportunity to work with your child over the course of a year, and we don’t take your trust in us lightly. To us, relationships are at the center of our work – with you as parents, with your children, and with the natural world. We consider ourselves to be mentoring partners with you and we hope this letter begins a connection that is more than just need-to-know information. Rather, we want this to be the beginning (or continuation) of a community of support as your child grows and develops.

We can’t wait to see the sparkle in your children’s eyes as they return home at the end of the day, full of wonder and appreciation for nature and community!

But for now, some more formal information…

** This letter has been recently updated. It provides new and important information that you will need in order to prepare your child for the program. Please read it thoroughly! **

If after reading this letter you still have questions, please call our Program Director, Sarah Hubbard at (706) 255-8937 or e-mail her at Please note that this is her personal cell phone. Please try to limit calls and texts to weekdays 8 AM to 6 PM, except in case of emergency.


The Otters After School Program is held every Wednesday from 3:30pm – 6:30pm, rain or shine, except for holidays/planning days. There are 25 total sessions from Sept. 6, 2017 to April 11, 2018.

Program Dates can be found on our website Calendar: you will also receive an invitation to a google calendar for the Otters After School Program that you can easily import into your own calendar.

First Day…

The first day of the program is September 6, 2017.


State Botanical Gardens; 2450 S Milledge Ave, Athens, GA 30605

When you arrive at the gardens please take the first drive into the large parking area.  Then, turn into the first section of parking spots.  Go to the end of it and turn left.  One of our mentors will be just past the bus stop waiting for you.

Drop-off and Pick-up:


Drop-off is at 9:30am pm. One of our Staff will greet you and will have a sign-in sheet for you. Please sign your child in every time. Please do your best to arrive on time each week. If you are going to be more than 15 minutes late or your child is not coming please contact Soleil Ouimet at (757)777-4861 as soon as possible. This helps us manage the flow of the day and allows the rest of the participants to maximum woods time.


Please arrive to pick up and sign your child out at 2:30 pm.

No Early Arrival/Late Pickup…

Please know that although our staff are on-site both before and after the sign-in and sign-out times, they are not available to supervise children outside of the arrival and pickup times indicated above. This time is used for program planning and debrief, and it is critical to us being able to provide each individual camper and the group with the best day possible. We acknowledge that this can be a challenge for working parents and appreciate your understanding.

and Sign-Out…

It is our policy that each child participant be signed in at drop off, and signed out at pick up. Please make sure that everyone who is authorized to drop off or pick up your child is aware of the need to do this! Sign-in each morning will be on a clip-board that one of our instructors will be holding. Please make a note if your child is going home with someone else!

Inclement Weather: Our programs take place outside. We do have access to several shelters at the Botanical Gardens.  If the weather becomes temporarily unsafe, we will wait it out a shelter.  This is a great time for stories and games! Occasionally the weather does take a harsher turn and we have to cancel our programs. We watch the weather closely and will try to notify you the evening before if we are going to have to cancel a day. We take cancelling our programs very seriously and ONLY do it if we believe the weather is going to put your children in an unsafe environment – meaning tornadoes, heavy thunder and lightning, high winds or extreme cold. Rain is something we can contend with and is often fun! If we have to cancel more than one class we will make every attempt to offer a makeup day.

What to Pack:

Please send the following items with your child in a small backpack. DO NOT send your child to a program with a bag on wheels or a satchel they have to carry over one shoulder. We often ramble widely across the land, and these lead to unhappy children, unhappy groups, and unhappy staff.

  • Nutritious snack
  • FULL 1 Liter water bottle. It is very important to have a minimum of 1 full liter of water. Please double check this every day!
  • Personal supply of sun block if appropriate for the weather – While our instructors will do their best to monitor and remind campers about application, it is very helpful if children of a reasonable age are able to monitor and help themselves.
  • A baggie with a small amount of toilet paper and hand sanitizer
  • Close-toed sandals or water shoes are ideal for water play (shoes are required for water play)
  • A notebook or journal and a pencil are nice additions

** A Note on Knives:

Otters provides the opportunity to mentor children in the safe and effective use of knives, a fundamental wilderness skill. We have a process in which children get “Knife-Safety Certified.” We provide the knives. Children who have earned certification receive a card to document their achievement, the date to re-certify, and that also lists our knife safety protocols. This allows mentors to know a child is currently certified, reminds the child of the protocols, and informs parents so that they may encourage those protocols at home if they choose. Once a person is knife certified, they are eligible to bring their own knife (subject to our guidelines) to the program. Certification will be rescinded for protocol violations.

**Unless your child is Knife Safety Certified, do not send them to program with any knife, even to just leave in their packs.

To be eligible for knife safety certification, one must be at least 8 years old AND deemed ‘ready’ by the instructing mentor. The most important qualities we look for are a high degree of attention, respect, patience, focus, and ability to follow direction. Next are adequate muscle strength, coordination, and fine motor skill. Lastly, we look for desire and confidence.

Without these qualities, knife use can be frustrating and dangerous. Exceptions regarding age are occasionally made for children who exhibit these traits at a younger age.

Something we often come across in our knife certification is that some children are allowed to use knives at home. THIS IS AWESOME. We still require them to go through our process and follow our rules of knife safety and we acknowledge this may be different than their rules at home. We are very thorough and confident that we set our students up for success with knives. IF your child gets the opportunity to become knife certified at Wild Intelligence we will provide you with all of our information so that you can fully support them in learning to use knives well and wisely alongside of us.

** Wild Intelligence approved knives have:

  • a 2-4 inch, straight blade – Longer blades are not allowed!
  • Non-serrated blade
  • Non-folding, fixed blade
  • Full-tang
  • To assist you in obtaining a knife for your child, we will have good-quality, inexpensive Swedish bushcraft knives for sale

What NOT to Pack:

  • Electronics
  • Excessive sugary snacks or “energy drinks” and sodas
  • A change of clothes – extra layers/rain gear are fine if necessary but please do not pack a change of clothes for after program in their backpack. Keep these (or garbage bags for your muddy child to sit on) in your car.
  • Open-toed shoes or sandals
  • Knives with blades longer than 4 inches
  • Axes, hatchets, or other camp tools
  • Extra items of any sort. We will be covering a fair bit of ground on foot each day, and heavy backpacks become a challenge for all. Bring what you need and need what you bring.

What Your Child Should Wear:

Appropriate clothing can make an outdoor experience. Poor clothing can break it, or become outright dangerous. We reserve the right to send campers home if inadequate clothing for the weather is an issue.

In general, clothing should be loose and comfortable, able to get very dirty, and appropriate for the weather. Pants, rather than shorts can be helpful if one is new to off-trail hazards such as briers, poison ivy, etc.

In Warmer Weather…

  • Cotton and thin synthetics are fine in the warmer months when hypothermia is less of an issue. They breathe well, and are naturally cooling.
  • Sturdy, closed-toed sandals, shoes or light boots.
  • Campers must wear shoes in the river. If wearing shoes that don’t get wet well, it is helpful to have water shoes or close-toed sandals (like Crocs or Keens) in the pack.

In Cooler Weather…

  • Layers, layers. layers! Several thin layers is far better than one or two thick ones. Removing or adding layers as needed helps manage body temperature and moisture over a wide range of activity and environmental conditions.
  • Not cotton, not cotton, not cotton! Cotton does not insulate the body when it is wet, and if wet can lead to hypothermia even at temperatures well above freezing, even in the high 60’s. If it is cool or raining, please do NOT send your child to program wearing cotton clothing!
  • Wool and synthetics like polypropylene or nylon are king in the cold. Both materials do a reasonable job of wicking moisture away from the body and insulating even when wet. Wool feels warmer and turns the wind better, but synthetics tend to be less expensive, more widely available, dry faster, and be machine washable. Excellent quality, non-itchy, Merino wool sweaters are almost always available at thrift stores for about $6 (Goodwill especially is great). We highly recommend these for base layers that work very well. For comparison, Merino wool “base layers” often sell for $60-$80 new and it is the same thing.
  • Hat, hat, hat! Bring a warm hat! The majority of one’s body heat is lost through the head, so a warm hat is crucial. (Again, wool or synthetic are best, not cotton!)
  • Because children love to investigate creeks, tall, insulated, waterproof boots are nice. Avoid thin, uninsulated rubber boots. They are freezing cold.
  • Thick wool or synthetic socks
  • Long johns make a perfect base layer
  • Rain gear or poncho if significant rain is in the forecast.
  • If you need help determining whether your child’s clothing is going to keep them warm in inclement weather, please feel free to ask our staff. We spend lots of time in the woods in all kinds of weather and can offer some tips we’ve learned with experience — we will be happy to help you!

What to Expect:


We group children into clans. A clan is much like a family within the tribe and your child will spend most of their day with her clan. When making clan assignments, we consider many factors including age, experience in nature, experience in Wild Intelligence, energy, interests, existing relationships with mentors and other children, and more. We consider each child as an individual and we also consider the bigger pictures for each clan and as a whole. This is part of “meeting them where they are” and allows our mentors to create the most positive experience for each clan.

If you have already requested that your child be placed with a friend, we will consider this when creating the groups, but we are not able to meet every request. Please understand that we do our best, but sometimes there are other factors that take priority. Requests for children of significantly different ages to be grouped together will not be accommodated, nor will requests made on the first day of a program.

By the first day of program, we will know who is in which clan, and you’ll be able to meet your child’s Lead Mentor.

Daily Schedule…

Our days will generally look like this:

  1. We will gather just beyond the parking lot until we are all there – possibly play some games
  2. As a big group, travel to our central meeting spot to share gratitude and tell stories which often sets a theme for the day
  3. Split into our clans (which are generally age-based), each with a Lead Mentor and then we wander on the land, doing activities, playing games, exploring mysteries, learning skills, or having adventures (everyday is quite different in this regard)
  4. Gathering back up as a big group to share stories and highlights from the day with each other
  5. At times, we shake things up and do things completely differently with whole-group days, choice-based activities, or other fun, rut-busting activities

***Parent Survival Kit

We have devoted a section of our website to provide more information that may help you manage your family’s experience with Wild Intelligence. There you will find a copy of this info letter, information about our mentoring model, and our policy around projectile hunting tools, hunting, fishing, and consuming wild plant and animal foods while in program.

For how we handle Projectile Weapons, Hunting, Processing Animals, and eating Wild Foods please see this section in our parent survival kit as well.

This information can be accessed at

Dirty Clothes….

At Wild Intelligence we encourage campers to really connect with the natural world! Often that means getting right in – be it mud, charcoal or berry-juice face paint. Don’t be surprised to see children and adults with dirty faces at the end of the day. Please send your child to camp in clothes and shoes that can get dirty. Keeping some large trash bags in the car for kids to sit on at the end of the day is a great way to minimize the impact of dirty campers!

Scrapes, Bug-bites, and other small things…

In general, these days, there is a lot of nature-phobia floating around. Most often it is very exaggerated, and this is in fact one reason that children are not playing outside as much these days. We’re changing that! On the first day of Program, we will go over possible hazards, such as ticks and poison ivy, and what to look for to make sure your child is safe and strong. Most of our instructors have had Wilderness First Aid training. They all have real-life experience with the hazardous aspects of the natural world and carry first-aid kits. We are always watching out for your child’s safety.

Parent/Staff Communications:

We encourage our Mentors to get to know our camper’s families and to communicate regularly. We also welcome and invite you to talk with your child’s Lead Mentor regarding your child’s experience in the program. If you have a particular concern (or appreciation!) or want to have a more extended conversation, we request you set-up an appointment in advance.

For immediate contact, attendance notifications, or larger concerns or questions, please callSoleil Ouimet at (757)777-4861 or email her at

If you need further assistance, please contact our Programs Director, Sarah Hubbard, at or (706) 255-8937.

Again we ask that you limit calls and texts to Monday through Friday 8:00am – 6:00pm except in the case of an emergency.

That’s all for now. We pour a lot of heart and soul into making our programs the best nature connection programs we can. I certainly hope this information helps you prepare for the coming year!

Remember, if you have any questions, please call Soleil Ouimet at (757)777-4861 or email her at or the Wild Intelligence office at (706) 255-8937, weekdays between 8 AM and 6 PM.

We look forward to seeing you this fall!


Sarah Hubbard, Program Director

Wild Intelligence

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