Campus ambassador creates online self-guided tour for K-5 kids

Campus ambassador Celene Chen poses with a bear statue on campus.

Campus ambassador Celene Chen’s favorite bear statue on campus is “Les Bears,” near the east entrance to the Haas School of Business. (UC Berkeley photo by Megan Lee)

Have you ever seen Sturdy, Osborn or Marsh on campus? Celine Chen, one of 85 campus ambassadors this semester at Berkeley Visitor and Parent Services, made sure to include them in a new online self-guided tour for youngsters who want to learn about UC Berkeley.

Each year, Visitor and Parent Services hosts 103,000 visitors to campus and leads 7,500 guided tours, including 90-minute guided public walking tours, tours for newly admitted and wait-listed students, electric cart tours, special group and private tours, undergraduate engineering tours, residence hall tours and California Memorial Stadium tours. The tours are for middle school and high school students, prospective students and their families and members of the community.

The new 26-stop Cal Kids Tour is designed for teachers, parents, camp counselors and chaperones of students in grades K-5. It includes a search for some of Berkeley’s 27 bears, which appear throughout campus as sculptures and other art forms — Sturdy is the nearly 10-foot-tall bear on Piedmont Avenue next to the California Memorial Stadium parking structure — and for fossils Osborn and Marsh, the T. rex and the flying pteranodon in the Valley Life Sciences Building.

(Sturdy is a word in the Cal song “Fight for California”: “Our sturdy Golden Bear/Is watching from the skies….” Paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn described and named T. rex in 1905, and Othniel Charles Marsh, also a paleontologist, first discovered pteranodon bones in 1870).

“It’s like a little scavenger hunt for them,” says Chen, 19, who’s pursuing a double major in sociology and cognitive science, adding that being a campus ambassador “is the best job I ever had.”

Campus ambassadors are students trained to lead tours, serve visitors at the Koret Visitor Center and the Campanile, support parent programs and staff special events such as Cal Day and homecoming. They share the history and culture of the campus and their experiences as Berkeley students.

Celene Chen is a campus ambassador

Celene Chen, a freshman, has created a self-guided tour of campus for students in grades K-5. (UC Berkeley photo by Megan Lee)

The Cal Kids Tour is full of facts about Berkeley’s buildings, programs, history and traditions and includes California Memorial Stadium, the Haas School of Business, Faculty and Memorial glades, the Campanile, Doe Memorial and Moffitt libraries, Zellerbach Hall, Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive.

Facts about each stop are online, and a campus map is marked with each of the 26 points of interest.

Chen also created Cal Kids games — a crossword puzzle and a word scramble — that correspond with the walking tour and test kids’ knowledge of what they’ve experienced.

Chen, who is from Fremont, says she chose to be a campus ambassador because she was soft-spoken in high school and wanted to challenge herself. Today, she’s keeping a tally of the number of tours she’s led — 62 so far — and has gained confidence in improvisation, speech flow and meeting and talking with new people. She also leads tours in Chinese for visitors from Taiwan and China.

The youngest member of the ambassadors’ leadership group, Chen volunteered to focus on the youngest visitors when Visitor and Parent Services’ existing self-guided tour for kids needed updating and to be put online.

“Children’s attention spans are very short,” says Chen, “and I also made sure the stops were close together and the pathways were not too tiring.  And it had to be fun — a college tour, but oriented toward kids’ interests and with large patches of grass where they could run around.”

“As a kid, I didn’t really understand the concept of college, and what I’d be doing in the future. I was living in the moment,” she adds. “I want them to enjoy their time on campus, so in the future, when they might think about coming here, they can say, ‘I visited Berkeley as a kid.’”