Who We Are

Wild Zones provides consulting services internationally to people and institutions concerned with fostering children’s free play in nature and creating intergenerational projects that build community.

David Hawkins, Co-founder

David has worked for over 20 years as a counselor, teacher and advocate for young people in schools, colleges, adventure playgrounds, arts centers, their homes, and the street.
He worked for 10 years for the Inner London Education Authority with boys who had been suspended from school for violent or racist behavior. From 1996-2000 he was Project Manager of The Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Middle School, a multi-racial school in Berkeley, California. He worked with nine hundred 11-13 year olds to transform a trashed out vacant lot into a beautiful and productive garden that has been widely reported in the media. He has spoken about children’s issues at conferences, and to businesses and NGO’s the U.S. and England. He is the father of three grown sons.

Click on link below to read an interview with David Hawkins

Inteview with David Hawkins.pdf

David discusses his work with children and youth and in particular the importance of play in the development of the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley.

“There is a question I return to again and again when seeking a hopeful way forward in my work with young people. ‘How do we raise a generation of young people who love the earth and love their own lives?’  Teenagers and children have so much to give and we offer them so few opportunities to make a contribution in a joyful and energetic way.”

Contact David Hawkins

Karen Payne, Co-founder

Karen has worked as a consultant, writer, filmmaker and workshop leader for over 25 years, focusing on issues of social and environmental justice, community development, anti-racism, violence prevention and social change philanthropy.
As Program Director of the American Community Gardening Association (1996-2000), she designed and implemented ACGA’s program ‘From the Roots Up’, which provided mentoring, leadership development, community organizing and anti-racism training in low-income neighborhoods across the United States. Karen was the director and producer of Turning of the Tide, a one-hour documentary that tells the story of admirals, generals and scientists involved in nuclear defense strategy, who had a crisis of conscience and became anti-nuclear activists (Channel Four, 1988). She was also production manager and consultant for several other documentaries for Channel Four TV. Her book, Between Ourselves: Letters between Mothers and Daughters 1750-1982, gives a history of women’s rights issues through the letters of famous and unknown women. It was a bestseller and was in print for over 20 years (Houghton Mifflin/Michael Joseph,1983; Picador, 1884; Virago,1995).  She is Consulting Producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Karen  also researched, wrote and produced the website for Marion Rockefeller Weber’s innovative philanthropy initiative, Flow Funding.  She is a co-founder with Tracy Gary of Unleashing Generosity, and co-author of “Inspiring Youth to Bring About Change: Tools for the Generosity Generation” – a curriculum for teens to learn about philanthropy and participate in Youth Giving Circles.

Contact Karen Payne

Thanks to our partners and supporters

Alameda County Public Health Department

Alliance for Childhood

Bay Area Wilderness Training

Blake Gardens for donations of plant material and a place to create with nature

Brende & Lamb for tree branches and the use of a truck

Brianne Teevan,  Bambini Creativi, Kansas City, for graphic design

Children and Nature Network

Children in Nature Collaborative, San Francisco Bay Area

Children, Nature and You

Children’s Discovery Museum, San Jose

City of Oakland, California

Environmental Studies Institute, Santa Clara University, especially Leslie Gray and Patrick Archie for instigating our partnership; and to Michelle Tang, Sarah Cafasso and Liza Dadiomov, Play Rangers extraordinaire

Escuela Popular, San Jose, California

Explora Children’s Museum, Rome, Italy

Friends of Ulistac (UNAREP)

Hooked on Nature


Kathy Hargrave

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens for donation of plant materials for Family Play Day in London

Larms Building Material, Oakland

Laura Loescher

London Borough of Greenwich

Lyngso Garden Materials, Inc. of Redwood City for donation of rocks

Manchester Aid to Kosovo, Manchester, England

Mormon Temple, Oakland - for palm fronds

National Health Service - Greenwich

Natural Leaders Network

Outdoor Afro

Payless Rockery, San Jose

Philanthropic Ventures Foundation

Sandra Nider, ReVive hair salon, Berkeley, California

San Jose Parks and Recreation Department

Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Department

Shelby Designs and Illustrates, Oakland

U.C. Botanical Garden, Berkeley

Villa Pignano, Volterra, Italy

Willow Farm, Pescadero, California

Youth Enrichment Strategies, Richmond, California

Zach Pine for collaboration and inspiration

Photography: Brett Dearing, Lisa Ellsworth, Roy Gordon, Maarten Laupman, Ene Osteraas Constable, Matthew Parkinson, Zach Pine, Damien Raffa, Lilia Schwartz (www.babymoonphotography.com),  Ed Worrell

Thanks to the Funders of Wild Zones

Community Foundation of Boulder, Colorado

Foundation for Global Community

Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara

The North Face

Trio Foundation

University of Phoenix Foundation

+ anonymous individual donors


In 2000, Karen and David co-founded Transforming Violence, an initiative to build social intelligence and offer opportunities for people to participate in creative strategies for preventing, stopping and healing violence. They created the exhibit Cultivating Community at the Eden Project in Cornwall, England.