The UC Davis Arboretum can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, from being the perfect place to take an afternoon nap to offering a scenic jogging route. With the help of the Arboretum Ambassadors, the Arboretum takes on a new role – classroom.
Arboretum Ambassadors is a student-run outreach and leadership internship. Students collaborate with the Arboretum and put on environmental education programs for the UC Davis campus as well as the community.
According to the Ambassadors’ brochure, the program “seeks to empower youth leaders to become effective advocates for the environment.”
“Since Arboretum Ambassadors is student-run and led, we have the independence to put on programs that we want to see happen,” said Paige Norberg, a senior environmental policy analysis and planning major and co-coordinator of the Ambassadors.
“You can see your interests come to life; we’ll give you the tools,” she said.
The Arboretum Ambassadors’ current project is an educational series entitled “Story time through the seasons.” Each event in the series focuses on a different culture and takes place in the corresponding area of the Arboretum.
The series is sponsored by a grant from Target and is designed for children from kindergarten to second grade and their families. At each event, children get to read a story specific to a culture then participate in cultural activities.
On Sunday, the program hosted an “Expedition to Africa” in the acacia grove of the Arboretum children.
“We’re going to read a traditional African story, and there will be African insects, crafts and activities,” said David Gonzalez, a senior evolution, ecology and biodiversity major and co-coordinator of the Ambassadors.
This event is one of five that the Arboretum Ambassadors are putting on this year.
“We had one event in fall quarter, two in winter, and we will have two more in spring,” Norberg said.
The Story time series is unique in that it allows children and families to both learn about an outside culture while experiencing that culture’s exotic nature.
“It’s cool because we are actually outside with the plants that are from all around the world, so kid can make that physical connection,” said Norberg. “[The series] gets kids thinking about the world outside of Davis, and they get to learn about nature in a fun way.”
“It encourages reading with families and it shows them the diversity of nature and culture,” Gonzalez said.
The Arboretum Ambassadors internship benefits more than just the children at the events – it also helps the students who run it. When asked what he liked best about the program, Gonzalez was quick to respond.
“It’s an immersive experience,” he said, “You’re making a positive impact that you can see and it’s a good feeling.”
If students are interested in applying for the Arboretum Ambassadors internship, recruitment will begin during spring quarter. The internship is a one-year commitment and more information is available on the Arboretum’s website. Students can also contact the ambassadors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JENNIFER SCOFIELD can be reached at email@example.com.