Milwaukee native offers educational summer expeditions for youth
Micah Leinbach, a Milwaukee resident involved with environmental issues still known for “saving the worms” by moving them into Sweetwater’s big compost heap on a subzero New Year’s has started a small business running expeditions for kids over the summers. Crystalaire Adventures offers trips for kids ages 8 - 14, in addition to contracting their tripping services to non-profits, youth groups, or other organizations.
“A lot of outdoor adventure and leadership is still in the past,” according to Leinbach, who tries to encourage his industry to become more inclusive and cross cultural. “We try to teach a lot of the leadership skills we know we need in today’s world: collaboration, cross-cultural competency, inclusion, and an awareness of the environments that surround us.”
Rather than a vacation, Leinbach believes his trips offer critical skills today’s youth don’t have access to. “I’m a child of the 21st century - I love technology,” he admits. “But helping people unplug, spend some quality time with human beings face to face, is so important. We think we can help make the world better by giving people the skills they need to live and work together.” The program is, in part, his response to a digital world that he appreciates, but finds increasingly pervasive. “I’m on my computer all the time, and I love the access to the world it gives me. But all the time is too much time.” Crystalaire Adventures run for 2 to 3 weeks in wilderness settings, giving small groups plenty of time to spend time together. Participants learn to navigate dense forests, cook nutritious meals from simply and cheap ingredients, pitch tents, and travel safely over rivers and through forests.
In between the daily chores of traveling and living out-of-doors participants engage in discussions on leadership or guides give workshops on leadership skills. “We’re not really trying to help people get away from it all,” Leinbach explains, “we want them to get ready for it all. We’re teaching life skills: responsibility, judgment, decision making. Cooking.” He laughs: “Today’s kids really need to learn cooking. I’ve had a lot of burned mac’n’cheese out there. The restaurant industry will be suffering if we don’t get people on that track.”
While Micah is constantly emphasizing that fun is at the core of the Crystalaire idea (“if you’re not having fun, you aren’t learning” is a mantra he repeats to his staff) there is a serious dimension to his work. While similar programs fly kids out to Alaska, Patagonia, or other countries, he wants his campers to gain an appreciation for their own region. He spends most of the summer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and has seen first hand the places threatened by expansions of mining projects, logging, or other industries. “Look, the need for jobs is very real in the places we go. They need economic support. We can either let industry do that, or we can show that our environments can have a very different kind of value. We show people that - and we show that small, local business has a place in local environments too. A healthy one.” He goes on to discuss the importance of kids who, as they reach adulthood, are already equipped with the social awareness and leadership skills to make a difference in the world. “Lots of people see it. This is a big time for the planet, on issues from climate change to inequality to increasing interactions between people of different cultures. We want to play our part in addressing that.”
Openings are available on all trips this summer, including a 3-week leadership program called “The Cojourn.” Other trips are going to Isle Royale National Park, the South Manitou Islands, and Ontario. Micah, a Milwaukee native, is happy to help residents of this city find the easiest way to make the 8 hour trip to Frankfort, MI, where he runs his base camp.
Crystalaire Adventures has also established a scholarship program for kids whose families lack the means to afford a trip themselves. If you or an organization you work with wish to sponsor a kid on a trip contact Micah at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can sponsor a kid from your neighborhood, or work with us to serve one of Michigan’s many kids in need.