Each year Jackson Hole Wild brings together science and film to foster a deeper connection between humans and nature during the two-day Wild Fest.
“We live in urgent times, and it has never been more important to connect people with the world around them in every level,” Executive Director Lisa Samford said.
On Friday and Saturday, Jackson Hole Wild will host a series of free events and film screenings suited for adults and kids alike. All programming will be at the Center for the Arts.
‘Native America’ premiere
To start the two-day fest Jackson Hole Wild and Wyoming PBS will premiere a four-part series, “Native America,” at 7 p.m. Friday. “Native America” explores a bold new perspective: The major indigenous cultures of North and South America were part of a single, interconnected world.
The series presents information gathered from indigenous people’s oral histories, corroborated with 21st-century tools, like multispectral imaging and DNA analysis.
“This series places a unique focus on both modern science and living indigenous traditions and oral histories around indigenous cultures,” said Cindy Harger, the community partnerships and events director at Jackson Hole Wild.
Jackson Hole Wild will screen the fourth episode of the series, “New Worlds Rising,” which highlights the intensity of native people’s connection to the land.
“I can no longer look at this land without thinking of the millions of Native Americans who created a world in which people lived as family with all living things, and that their way of life still has the power to make a more sustainable future,” said Gary Glassman, executive director for the series.
“Native America” features hundreds of voices spanning 40 cities, as far north as Vancouver Island and as far south as southern Peru. Each hour explores Great Nations and reveals cities, sacred stories and histories long hidden in plain sight.
The Young Falcon Drum Group and Dance Society will perform before the screening.
The other three episodes will be aired on PBS nationwide later this fall.
“We think of the series as one story with four chapters,” Glassman said. “Each hour is a story within itself, but if you watch all four it will be a much powerful story. The story is about the native communities that are still here, their knowledge as an authentic portal to the past and their powerful message for a just and sustainable future.”
—Julie Kukral and Lina Collado
Science Day at the Center
Wild Fest’s Science Day invites all ages to an immersive day of exploration through exhibits that range from fossil digs to 3D art. This year, there are upwards of 30 science exhibits to explore, with many stations offering hands-on activities geared toward children and adults. The all-day science extravaganza will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
For the past three years there have been popular exhibits that continue to come each year, as well as new ones to ensure families can come again and experience something new.
“Fossil digs are huge,” Wild Fest event coordinator Carly McKay said. “That never gets old for kids. They want to dig for dinosaur bones every year.”
Many of the exhibits put on by government agencies and local nonprofits will have a wildlife and conservation theme. For example, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s booth will show the animals and fish the agency tracks and explain the importance and benefits of tagging.
“As well as conservation, we are looking to promote science and STEM topics,” McKay said. “We have people from all over, like the high schoolers who will be bringing in their robots to show kids how applied sciences can be fun and interactive.”
A new contribution to the fair this year is a prosthetic hand station brought by the University of Utah that shows the advancements made in brain-controlled prosthetic technology. The new technology has allowed patients to even feel sensory touch. Dr. Chris Duncan will dive into the specifics of this technology in a TEDx presentation Sunday (see page 9).
All of the participants were given a rule that no matter the exhibit, it has to be interactive, allowing attendees to get a hands-on experience at every booth.
“We gear this event toward kids because that is the demographic we are reaching, but all these exhibits that come are things that parents are going to be interested in as well,” McKay said. “This is an event for the whole family.”
— Melissa Peterson
Backyard Wilderness film
“Backyard Wilderness,” a finalist of Jackson Hole Wild’s 2018 Science Media Awards, will screen at 4 p.m. Saturday.
After reading Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods,” producers and directors Andrew Young and Susan Todd were inspired to make a movie that would encourage children to get outside and reconnect with nature.
The film is told from the perspective of the animals and nature living outside 11-year-old Katie’s home in the American Northeast. Like many modern families, Katie and her family are absorbed by their electronic devices, preventing them from seeing the real-life spectacles around them. Abandoning her dependency on electronics, Katie slowly becomes attuned to the life right outside her doors.
“Backyard Wilderness is a wonderful and delightful film that underscores the importance of the connection we can all have with nature in our very own backyard,” Samford said. “Here in Jackson Hole we are out in nature every day, but in other places not so much.
“This film brings a powerful and universal message in a very personal way that speaks to everyone.”
Using the slogan “Wifi is not the only connection that matters,” Young and Todd have launched a nationwide campaign to help schools and communities disconnect from electronics and reconnect with the natural world through place-based science discovery.
— Julie Kukral and Lina Collado
WILD Fest will conclude with an inaugural Space Night at 7 p.m. Saturday. Over the course of the evening there will be two film screenings and a presentation put on by Wyoming Stargazing.
The evening will start with the screening of “The Farthest: Voyager in Space,” another finalist from the Science Media Awards. The film tells the tale of NASA’s Voyager program, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last August. The twin spacecraft Voyager 1 and 2 have less computing power than a cellphone. They first visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune in 1977, gathering images and data that have revolutionized our understanding of our solar system’s outer planets and their many peculiarly moons. In 2012, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to travel beyond our solar system, ushering humanity into the interstellar age.
“A New View of Moon” will show next. Director Wylie Overstreet made the three-minute short by parking his telescope at the cross section of various sidewalks in Los Angeles over the course of 18 months. Overstreet would offer random people passing by the opportunity to get a spontaneous glimpse of the moon through his telescope, leaving each viewer in complete awe.
“To be able to see it up close and feel like you could almost reach out and touch it,” Overstreet said in the film, “that’s what makes it real to us.”
Following the film screenings, Wyoming Stargazing will park its own telescopes on the Center lawn, as well as its inflatable digital planetarium.
“Being able to share all of the amazing things that are always above our heads with the general public is an exciting opportunity to be part of,” Wyoming Stargazing Executive Director Samuel Singer said.
— Julie Kukral and Lina Collado