Stanford alumnus Caleb Kruse ’14, his brother Cameron Kruse and their friend Jordan Fatke received one of National Geographic’s Young Explorers Grants to give away ice cream across America in order to inspire “the next generation of explorers and conservationists.”
During their Ice Cream Expedition, the team plans to visit 33 states over a two-month trip and plans to stop along the way to teach kids about conservation while using ice cream as a conversation starter.
According to Caleb Kruse, one of the project’s founders, the team wants to encourage the children it meets to explore and preserve the natural world around them — anything from a national park to the garden in their backyards. Children will then be asked to sign a pledge to observe, explore and protect their chosen regions.
How they started
Fatke and the Kruses began their project under the belief that today’s society does not encourage children and teenagers to become conservationists and explorers. Caleb Kruse explained that his original inspiration was a conversation he had with a friend three years ago about road trips.
“We were talking about the costs of a trip, and he thought a good way to fund it would be to sell ice cream,” Caleb explained. “I thought the idea was cool and stuck with it.”
He also explained that despite their initial difficulties in securing funding, the project took off with the help of National Geographic and the Young Explorers Grant.
“The advertisement really comes through [National Geographic] because we tried applying for grants [during] my junior year of undergrad, and nothing seemed to piece together,” Caleb said. “But once National Geographic was behind us, we started to get sponsors, such as Magnolia Ice Cream, and our Kickstarter started to take off as well.”
The team used the $5,000 grant to buy a truck and get the project rolling. In early June they created a Kickstarter to fund necessary costs other than their truck, such as food and documentation materials for the trip. Magnolia Ice Cream sponsored the expedition by providing four unique flavors of ice cream: mango, avocado, guava and a mix of purple yam and coconut.
By July 1, the Kickstarter had achieved its $18,000 goal. After raising a total of $18,143 in funding, the team is now only weeks away from beginning its cross-country adventure.
Who They Are
The three National Geographic Young Explorers come from a wide variety of eccentric backgrounds. Caleb Kruse graduated from Stanford’s undergraduate earth systems program this past spring and plans to continue studying at Stanford in the 2014-15 school year to work towards earning his Ph.D. in a marine biology-related field. He explained that his love of science has driven his passion for conservation from a young age.
Caleb’s older brother, Cameron, brings traveling expertise to the team. Having graduated from Pepperdine University in 2012 with a degree in biology, he spent two years in India on a Fulbright Scholarship, and during his time abroad, his research and studies focused on helping people with HIV.
“I think Caleb really gets the credit for the idea that sparked the expedition, but when I came back from India, we worked together on the grant proposal,” Cameron said. “So now I’m just doing all I can to help with [the project].”
The Kruses’ good friend Jordan Fatke is the final member of the team and graduated from film school in 2013. Fatke also worked with the organization Invisible Children, Inc. to help create the Kony 2012 documentary and plans on taking photographs and recording footage throughout the Ice Cream Expedition to create a documentary of their own.
Caleb noted that the future of the Ice Cream Expedition will depend on how the trip pans out this summer.
“Honestly, I am not sure if this will be a reoccurring expedition, but it may be similar to another Stanford project called Sparktruck,” he said. “[Sparktruck] traveled the country and did hands-on learning with kids. They thought it was a one-time trip going into it but ended up having several trips to follow.”
The trio will start driving across the United States on July 17 from San Diego, carrying the message that “an explorer is first and foremost a conservationist.”
Ultimately, the goal of their expedition is to spread the concept of conservationism through the children of the next generation, they explained.
“I just want as many people to be a part of this story as possible and can’t wait to meet so many people on the road,” Fatke said. “I believe that it’s all about human connection and coming together for something as simple as ice cream that sparks the explorer in kids and even rekindles [an] adult’s inner child.”
Contact Jocelyn Woods at jocelynwoods16 ‘at’ mittymonarch ‘dot’ com.