Grand Rapids Walking Tours Kids Can Lead
by  Tom Mulder
Over the course of the last 50 years, we have accumulated a couple of shelves of guide books from across the US and Europe, but of all those books none are written for a younger person to be the guide. Tom Mulder, an adjunct professor of English at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and Grand Valley State University (GVSU), has created a guide book of eight tours in and around downtown Grand Rapids specifically for kids.
Each tour is self-contained, with an introduction, list of the places to visit, length, level of difficulty, and comments about the stops along the way. Tours range from about 1/2-mile to over 4 miles and from about an hour to almost four hours. Most tours have a cut off where you can shorten them. He has also given information about the really important things like bathrooms and a place to get a snack or a meal. There are also sample questions to ask and places to take pictures.
The idea about writing a guide book grew out of his ten years of experience as a docent and tour guide at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. He said he was amazed at some of the stories that the volunteers who were in their 80s and some in their 90s had from both their experience as a docent but also for having been a part of Grand Rapids for decades. He wanted to compile them for his own use but also so this institutional knowledge would not be lost to future generations. With funding cuts, schools were not able to afford transportation to the museum or the cost of admission.
The pandemic offered him the opportunity to take this information and create the guidebook. Tom’s intention was not only to preserve the history but offer an alternative to teachers and students that could no longer come to the museum. For the kids who use the guide it helps develop leadership skills in a practical hands-on way.
Mulder’s college writing classes often focus on Grand Rapids and local events. He likes to give them assignments that deal with the places and events they call home. Downtown Grand Rapids is a short walk from the GRCC campus.
Tom was born in Battle Creek and was raised in Grand Rapids. He graduated from Calvin College and went on to teach mostly English and writing. He and his wife, Cathy, met while teaching in the same school district in Denver. She was teaching 6th grade and he was teaching high school. After their oldest child moved to Grand Rapids with her family it was time for them to move home and be closer to family. They moved back in 2005 and he began teaching at GRCC in 2009.
The pandemic offered him some free time since he didn’t have to commute. In 2020, he published the “English Composition Teacher’s Guidebook: How to Survive (and Even Thrive) as a Part-time or Adjunct Instructor.” This year Tom published “Writing the Pandemic,” which is a reflection on his experiences learning to adapt to the restrictions of the pandemic, developing and implementing virtual and hybrid curriculum, and the experiences of his students in that environment. “Grand Rapids Walking Tours Kids Can Lead” was published this summer.
When not teaching, Tom and Cathy, like to take road trips looking for unique bakeries! One gem he found was the Shatila Bakery that advertises as a “Middle Eastern French” bakery so you can get fresh decadent baklava or a baguette not to mention the regional breads and pastries. Closer to home is the Nantucket Baking Company located in the historical Heritage Hill neighborhood and a second location at Leonard and Fuller Avenues where Mulder said you can’t get anything you don’t like. He hasn’t been to Busy Mom’s Bakery so I am going to try and entice him to come to Cedar Springs.
If you are interested in purchasing Tom’s book, copies are available at Schuler's Books, Barnes and Noble, several of the Grand Rapids museums, and Amazon. You can also order it at Pontiac’s Scribe Publishing Company at


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