What can a Crystalaire Adventure teach me?

Our education programs range widely, and we try to maintain interdisciplinary and experiential approaches to learning. Our education staff have won national awards, attend regular conferences in education, teach courses for college credit, and graduated with honors from some of the nation’s best Outdoor Education training courses.

If you want to take advantage of these resources, consider setting up a build-your-own trip, appropriate for families, groups, organizations and friends.

We hope every trip participant comes away from their experience with some comfort and understanding in the topics below.


Crystalaire is an exceptional program in the way it combines outdoor experiences, a rich history of education, and a deep commitment to designing powerful and meaningful social experiences. No one pays more attention to the fostering of interpersonal and group relationships and communities on trips. Here’s how we know:

Social Design – We work together to build our group.
Crystalaire looks at every group as a “microsociety” building their own social norms and ways of relating, and we put more thought into how to build those structures than anyone else. Social and ecological systems will be around you your whole life – we use the smaller ones we build to make that easier to see. You’ll encounter challenges of justice, collaboration, creativity, decision making, conflict, and you’ll have to work through them in a comfortable, focused setting. We don’t just get you away from it all, we help you understand and prepare for it all.

Social Learning – We work together to build our knowledge. 
We recognize that regardless of age, human beings learn from everything they see. That means every one of our participants has a wisdom that merits respect. We want you to share that wisdom even while you learn from others. We collaborate to build our understanding and knowledge, the essence of good social learning.

A Commitment to Fun – We work together to have fun. 
There’s one ultimate way to measure what’s happening. If we aren’t having fun, something’s going wrong. Of course, there are a few types of fun we have to consider. But ultimately, fun is at the core of what we do every single day.

Choose Your Own Adventure – We offer the chance to plan with us. 
Sure, we plan trips you can sign up for. But we also work with you to design the trips you’ve always wanted. Our “Choose Your Own Adventure” options will put you in the driver’s seat of trip planning, giving you the perfect adventure with friends, family or others. We’ll even provide fundraising assistance. It’s hard to find another program that will work with kids before a trip even begins to make that trip happen.

Participant-Driven Programming
We don’t have a curriculum to go through or a schedule to stick to. You’ll design that on your trip, choosing when to play, when to learn, when to sleep, and when to eat as a group. We try and make sure that every participant has the opportunity and freedom to make real choices. We respect your power and agency.

Your Own Time
The outdoors is a wonderful place for reflection. You’ll get the free time to explore it in the ways you want. Every trip offers long days, but we also make sure you get time to breathe and have space to yourself.

All the other good stuff.
Every trips program, ours included, is going to offer boundless other benefits. Time outside, opportunities to learn new skills and pick up confidence, beautiful spaces and places. You’ll have opportunities for character development and feedback. You’ll learn new skills and gain familiarity with new areas.


Crystalaire Adventures teaches most of the skills you would want to have while enjoying the outdoors, whether simply for fun or as an insurance policy for a camping trip gone wrong. Ranging from basic necessities to advanced survival skills, we will focus on drills or scenarios, reinforcing them with theory and (outdoor!) classroom time, helping the skills become second nature. With an emphasis on realistic,  scenario-based training in outdoor settings we draw from the best research and  practice in the field of outdoor education when designing our educational program.

The wilderness skills we teach draw heavily from the woodcraft tradition. For education in more modern forms of camping, see the below sections on “Outdoor Living” and “Leave No Trace.”

Wilderness skills include shelter building, camouflage, tracking, fire building, primitive skills, natural crafts, woodcraft, search and rescue, survival skills, survival psychology, and more.


We teach to the standards preferred on most public lands today. These include fundamentals and protocols of setting up a tent, tarp, or hammock, designing a camp, bearproofing, stormproofing, and “bombproofing” (making sure your campsite is safe no matter what happens), setting up and managing an outdoor kitchen, and more. We also teach you how to keep yourself warm, dry, happy, and comfortable, how to get good nights of sleep in the outdoors, and more. When you do longer, more intense trips, it becomes of critical importance to be proficient at even basic skills. We will help you get there!

In addition to the above skills, you will learn how to cook for yourself – a skill that only becomes easier once you get back home, and one you will never regret learning.

In order to provide you with the most up-to-date standards for camping on public lands, Crystalaire Adventures also offers Leave No Trace trainings and certifications. 


Whether you are boating, biking, backpacking, or something else, we can give you basic and advanced skills to get you from point A to point B. Learn how to use a map, compass, and GPS – even in the dense woods. Learn basic paddle strokes, biking fundamentals, or how to get the most out of every backcountry trip. Whether in open fields, rough waters, running rivers, still lakes, dense forest, or open sand dunes, we will teach you the best ways to get around.

In addition to these technical skills, we will help you learn how to make safe and sound judgments about which trail to take, route to use, or terrain to attempt. It is no good going out there if you don’t know how to manage the risks, and you could endanger both yourself and others on your trip. Such dangers are worth avoiding, and we will equip you with the knowledge and perspective to keep you and your trail-mates safe in the backcountry.


We see leadership as a way of life rather than a “position” with designated power and authority. Our leadership philosophy is grounded in leadership carried out by earning the respect and attention of others so they will choose to follow you of their own accord. Here you will learn how to guide discussions, communicate your intentions and decisions, delegate tasks, connect and build rapport with others, and more. We will also help you gain perspective on what you appreciate about a leader, and what your strengths and abilities are when you take on a leadership role.

Interpersonal Skills

The 21st century increasingly demands collaboration and the ability to work with diverse people. We firmly believe that the skills you use to work with people can be actively learned, practiced, and improved. In an age where phones, e-mails, and the internet make easy to lose critical social skills we offer training and practice in skills that help you communicate, exchange feedback, and build stronger relationships. You can learn conflict management, active listening, relationship building, and similar social skills.

 Cultural Competency

Increasingly seen as one of the critical skills of leadership, business management, and education in the 21st century, cultural competency (similar to cultural literacy, cultural fluency, or cultural intelligence) is the capacity to work effectively within diverse groups that cross ethnic, racial, linguistic, socioeconomic, gender, and other barriers. In short, cultural competency encapsulates a series of skills and habits that help you work with anyone who is not just like you – which happens to include most people.

Our guides have worked in issues of social justice, and with participants in outdoor settings from over a dozen different countries. We also maintain an active scholarship program that helps us to bring participants of varying backgrounds on our program. Understanding how to work across differences and with people with different amounts of power and privilege is vital if our participants are to be leaders and advocates in the 21st century world. If you would like a trip to include more of this content, please let us know.

Confidence & Decision Making

Decision-making skills come with the territory on an outdoor trip. Outside of the regular day-to-day schedules and social systems, you decide what you do most of the time, and you are the one who has to react when things don’t go as planned. In addition to teaching you more about the psychology of decision making and risk perception, we will give you tools, skills, and practice in making decisions swiftly, democratically, collaboratively, or otherwise. We will also help you figure out which decision making styles work best for your preferred style, your work, or different contexts.


On our trips, we want to give you time to pause, breathe, and think. In addition to teaching meditation skills (and the chance to practice them), our trips can give you time to be alone and thoughtful. We also use group and individual exercises to help you think about how you act and react in social situations, gaining self-awareness of your leadership and participation styles in groups, and gain tolerance for adverse situations or people you struggle to connect with.


There is a wealth of ecological, geological, and climatical information in every biome we travel through. We will help you observe the world around you and make sense of the patterns and anomalies you see. Whether we are catching frogs along the riverside, tracking bobcats across the dunes, or trying to spot the near-mythical “Dragonhunter” dragonfly, we teach science in an engaging and active way that mirrors the way science is done.

Rather than the textbook-and-teaching model, we strive for active pursuit of research-style science. It’s science the way scientists do it! 

History and Culture

The Upper Midwest has historically served as a major cultural, geographic and economic hub of the Americas. Native peoples like the Ojibwe and Odawa have called the region home for centuries, developing philosophies, technologies, and beliefs that are very much alive in American life today. As French missionaries and fur-traders moved through the region, Anashinaabe trade routes laid down the foundation for today’s modern transport network. Over time more peoples, cultures, and economic trends came to our region. We have played host to most major industries – logging, mining, shipping, manufacturing – and their impacts. In addition, the idea of a tourist or wilderness economy first emerged in the United States. As our region continues to play a role in history, we will help you understand how it got to be the way it is, tying in both the local and global scales as we discover and work to shape and understand the narratives all around us.

Environmental Awareness

A knowledge of ecological science is very different from an environmental ethic that guides how you interact with the world around you. The North Woods has long been host to some of the great names in environmental advocacy:  Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Sigurd Olson, Gaylord Nelson, and more. On our own trips we have to have some personal sense of how to interact with our surroundings, since every day depends on our ability to be comfortable in outdoor environments. We draw on these thinkers’ ideas, Ojibwa and other native perspectives, concepts of nature from around the globe, and modern wilderness policy and philosophy, which frequently results in fascinating conversations about our relationships to everything around us.

Leave No Trace

With certified Leave No Trace Masters on staff, we can offer an LNT training for your organization or staff. You will receive certifications as “Leave No Trace Trainers,” highly valued in outdoor recreation, education, and land management jobs. With a focus on forested environments and the environments of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, LNT Trainer courses involve a two-day commitment with an overnight camping component.

If you want our training, but not the full certification, we include a LNT component on most of our trips and are happy to provide you with information and advice on how you can best respect other visitors and the “Wilderness Experience” on your own outings.

For information on any of the above, contact us at info@crystalaireadventures.com.