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Majors

The majors below are for 2022 Grandparents University ® (GPU). We are in the process of confirming a few more majors. An email confirming 2022 majors will be sent in early March to those on the GPU affinity list who are also Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) members or recognized in Van Hise Society, Bascom Hill Society, or 1848 Society.


Grandparents University offers a wide range of “majors” taught by UW faculty, staff, and graduate students from disciplines across campus. You and your grandchild will stay together in the same major for the entire two-day program. An adult must accompany each child at all times during the activities related to the major.

Please select majors based on your grandchild’s age, their physical activity level, and your physical activity level. Each major’s age range has been carefully determined based on the focus and scope of the activities.

Guide to Physical Activity Levels

Levels of physical activity vary among majors and field trips, so please read the descriptions carefully and choose what best suits your physical abilities:

  • Low: Most activities and tours take place indoors, with some walking required. Majors will have mostly seated activities.
  • Medium: Some movement and walking is required between classrooms and venues, which may include stairs.
  • High: Significant movement and physical activity, including walking or hiking outdoors.

We will make every attempt to honor accessibility requests made in advance.

ANIMAL ECOLOGY FIELD CAMP

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 7–14

Lead Instructor: Johanna Desprez, Program Coordinator, Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center

Participants will learn about various water habitats and discover the amazing world of macro-invertebrates. Participants will also learn about animal signs and what makes reptiles different from amphibians.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Water Quality Activity — Explore the water habitats near campus and discover the amazing world of macro-invertebrates.
  • Animal Signs Hike — Become a detective, investigate animal clues and solve nature’s mysteries.
  • Reptile Adaptation Exploration

Physical Activity Level: High. Participants will be spending time outside walking so dress for the weather. Please bring your water bottle.


ART

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 7–14

Lead Instructor: Candie Waterloo, curator of education, Chazen Museum of Art

Bring your imagination as we explore the wonderful world of sculpture! Using inspiration from objects in the Chazen Museum of Art’s permanent collection, we’ll experiment with papier-mâché, foil, plaster, and more to create one-of-a-kind sculptural works of art. No experience is necessary, but a willingness to play is required!

Anticipated Activities:

  • Visit the Print Study Room and examine a work of art up close
  • Experiment with drawing using alternative materials like wire and thread
  • Create a mixed-media assemblage

Physical Activity Level: Low. Participants should come prepared to get messy and wear clothes that are suitable for artmaking; some light walking is required between museum galleries; an elevator is available.


ASTRONOMY

Sessions: I, II
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: Kay Kriewald, outreach specialist, Department of Astronomy, College of Letters and Science

Become a stargazer and explore the night sky! Participants will become acquainted with the constellations and other interesting objects in the night sky and learn how to find them.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Make an amazing scale model of the planets out of modeling clay
  • Learn how to identify different constellations
  • Tour historic Washburn Observatory

Physical Activity Level: High. Participants will visit the Washburn Observatory, which is accessible only by stairs.


BIOTECHNOLOGY

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: Tom Zinnen, outreach program manager, UW Biotechnology Center

Explore the unknown and become a scientist by running your own experiments and other hands-on investigations in a real laboratory! You’ll extract DNA from wheat germ, tour the DNA and protein facilities at the UW Biotechnology Center, experiment with the enzymes used in cheese-making, and run an electrophoresis experiment to analyze samples of “alien blood.”

Anticipated Activities:

  • Extract DNA glop from wheat
  • Design and run an experiment testing a cheese-making enzyme made with DNA technology
  • Run the “Alien Blood Electrophoresis” gel

Physical Activity Level: Low to medium. Some movement and walking required between classrooms and venues, which may include stairs.

Note to participants: Make sure to note any allergies on your registration form.


CHINESE LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Sessions: II, III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Xiaoyi Sun, instructor of Chinese, Madison Area Technical College

Our students will experience Chinese pinyin, tones, and characters through games, music, and other hands-on learning activities. They will also explore Chinese culture through cultural activities such as Chinese Calligraphy Day and a field trip to the Chazen Museum of Art.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn Chinese pinyin, tones, and characters through fun learning activities such as songs, music, interactive map, matching game, telephone game, four corners game, and role-play
  • Learn Chinese calligraphy
  • Explore the Asian collections at the Chazen Museum of Art

Physical Activity Level: Low to medium. Some movement and walking required between classrooms and venues, which may include stairs. There will be a walk to the Chazen Museum of Art.


COMPUTER SCIENCE

Sessions: I, II
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Cole Nelson, graduate lecturer, Department of Computer Sciences, College of Letters & Science

Computer scientists do more than just use computers; computer scientists solve problems with directions so precise that even a computer can follow the steps. In this major, you will learn some of the creative aspects of computer science, such as how to create your own interactive art, animated stories, and games in the Scratch programming environment.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn how to program in Scratch, a friendly programming environment designed for beginners
  • Use Scratch to tell a joke, animate your favorite pictures, and answer quiz questions
  • Learn how computers work, from binary numbers to algorithms

Physical Activity Level: Low.


DIGITAL STORYTELLING

Session: I, II, III
Ages: 1114

Lead Instructor: Allyson Gross, Ph. D. Student, Communication Arts

Participants will learn the essentials of good storytelling, and using their family histories and stories, gain practice in using technology to record and edit a podcast that spotlights a story that they developed together.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn what makes for a good story
  • Practice interviewing techniques to capture stories
  • Record and edit a podcast that can be shared with friends and the community.

Physical Activity Level: Low


EARTH’S CLIMATE

Session: III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Feng He, associate scientist, Center for Climatic Research, Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies

What are the BIG 10 events during Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history? What were the climates during these events? Participants will explore the evolution of Earth’s environment and climate from its beginning to the human transformation of it.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn the evolution of Earth’s environment and climate from its beginning to the human transformation of it
  • Tour the Geology Museum to see the evidence of dramatic changes of Earth’s environment and climate through time
  • Explore the wonderland of Earth’s history with ChronoZoom and Infiniscope

Physical Activity Level: Low. Most activities and tours take place indoors, with some walking required. Participants will be seated for most activities.


ENTOMOLOGY

Session: II
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: PJ Liesch, insect diagnostician, Department of Entomology, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

We’ll learn about the biology, ecology, diversity, and importance of the insects around us through a number of hands-on activities, field trips, and interactive mini lectures. Students will participate in an insect-collecting expedition along the Lakeshore Path and create their own curated insect collection. Students will also develop observation skills by keeping a scientific journal during the course.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn about insect anatomy and create your own insect
  • Go on an outdoor expedition to find and collect insects
  • Create a curated insect collection

Physical Activity Level: High. Field trip location is a few blocks away from the classroom. Participants should come prepared to walk several blocks and spend an hour outdoors.

Note to participants: Field trips are included in the major (weather permitting). Participants should have proper clothing to hike outdoors to collect insects. Allergy note: Stinging insects could be encountered.


ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Julie Wood, entrepreneur and former faculty member, Small Business Development Center, Wisconsin School of Business

Participants will learn what an entrepreneur is, what they do, and the characteristics that make a successful entrepreneur. The participants will choose a business idea based on their talents and skills, create marketing materials, and develop that idea using the Business Model Canvas. Participants will experience running a business by playing the Biz Ops Game.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Play the Biz Ops Game
  • Choose a business idea and create marketing materials to share with the class
  • Create a Business Model Canvas for their business idea

Physical Activity Level: Medium. Some movement and walking required between classrooms and venues, which may include stairs.


GEOLOGY

Sessions: I, II
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Carsyn Ames, Samples Curator, Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey (WGNHS)

Building on their introduction to geology at the Geology Museum, participants will discover the geology and water resources of Wisconsin. Students will learn about the rocks of our state as well as gain an understanding of its rich geologic past. They will also explore the rocks that contain water and will explore the connection between surface water and groundwater.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Create a Wisconsin rock collection and use it to understand geologic time
  • Build a play-dough 3-D model of Wisconsin's rock layers
  • Make a shoe box model of the water cycle

Physical Activity Level: Low


JOURNALISM

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Kelsey Brannan, general manager, WSUM Madison Student Radio

Testing, testing! In this program, participants will learn the basics of interviewing and recording. At the end, participants will be able to show their new skills by recording an interview between them and their grandparents.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn basic interviewing skills
  • Learn basic recording skills
  • Record a two-way interview between grandchildren and grandparents for families to take home

Physical Activity Level: Low. Most activities and tours take place indoors, with some walking required. Participants will be seated for most activities.


LIMNOLOGY

Sessions: II, III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Anne Moser, education coordinator, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Lake Mendota is the perfect place to spend a summer day and explore a freshwater ecosystem. As a limnologist, you will test the water for oxygen and temperature and take samples of the lake’s murky bottom aboard Limnos, a 28-foot research boat. You will join our Sea Grant experts to explore the ecology of our Great Lakes. You will also learn about Wisconsin’s groundwater and work with water chemists in our laboratory.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Field trip on the R/V Limnos, a 28-foot research boat, to collect water samples from Lake Mendota
  • Learn all about what makes the Great Lakes great and how to identify Great Lakes fish
  • Learn about remotely operated vehicles and assemble your own for testing in the flume tank

Physical Activity Level: High. Significant movement and physical activity, including walking or hiking outdoors. Participants will be getting in and out of a small research vessel.

Note to participants: You’ll take water samples and board a boat from a wooden-plank pier. Please wear appropriate footwear. There is no formal seating on the boat. You’ll be standing or sitting on the gunnels for approximately 90 minutes. There is some outside walking and climbing of stairs required. Be prepared for all weather — the boat will go out in all conditions except for lightning, including heat and rain. Be sure to cover for sun or rain and bring a hat if you would like.


MEAT SCIENCE

Session: III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Jeff Sindelar, associate professor and Division of Extension meat specialist, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Have you ever wondered where chicken nuggets come from or why sausages are so tasty? In this major, you will have a chance to be a meat scientist and a meat processor for a few hours. We will cut up chickens and make (and eat) different products such as chicken nuggets and sausages while learning about the science of meat processing every step of the way!

Anticipated Activities:

  • Cut up a chicken to learn how the different parts are used
  • Make chicken nuggets and sausages
  • Learn about the science of meat processing

Physical Activity Level: Medium/High

Note to participants: Bring a coat/sweater as we will be in a 50-degree Fahrenheit room. Wear long pants and closed-toe shoes.


METEOROLOGY

Session: III
Ages: 1114

Lead Instructor: Margaret Mooney, Director of Education and Public Outreach, Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS)

Learn about forces that create our local weather patterns and UW contributions to the field of satellite meteorology. In this major, you'll view real-time imagery of Earth and its atmosphere on a 3-D globe and investigate weather phenomena like tornadoes and hurricanes via interactive computer activities. You'll also test your orientation skills by identifying campus landmarks on satellite images while comparing them to your birds-eye view from the roof of our 16-story building.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Build an anemometer and a model weather satellite
  • Assemble a solar bead bracelet to learn about the electromagnetic spectrum
  • Take a virtual field trip to Antarctica
  • Learn how scientists first studied snow crystals before designing your own
  • Enjoy a breathtaking view of the capital city from the second-tallest building on campus
  • Watch a weather balloon launch

Physical Activity Level: Low


MUSIC

Session: III
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: Jamie Henke, distinguished faculty associate, Division of Continuing Studies

We will explore the structure of the blues and talk about the three chords that make up the blues and how they are organized into a pattern. We will learn about making music using call and response, and we will also learn how to scat sing. We will also learn about five different African birds and their songs, and use those songs for our scat syllables. In the process, we will explore diversity and learn that we need everyone to take part and share their different talents and abilities.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Turn your Badger red into blue with the blues scale
  • Scat, sing, and dance with African birds
  • Scribble what you hear with the UW Marching Band

Physical Activity Level: Low.

Note to participants: You may want to wear flat shoes appropriate for some movement in case we have time to learn the dance moves associated with the African birds.


NURSING

Session: III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Britta Lothary, clinical instructor, School of Nursing

Participants will explore some places where nurses work and learn more about what nurses do. You’ll practice basic nursing skills using human-patient simulators in our skills lab at the School of Nursing. You’ll also try computer games designed to teach medical terms and learn about how nurses keep patients safe.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn about different places that nurses work and visit Med Flight (as long as the helicopter isn’t in the air!)
  • Meet Sim-Man, a human-patient simulator used in our nursing program
  • Learn about ways to prevent infections, the components of blood, and how to change a wound dressing

Physical Activity Level: Medium. Some walking (mostly indoor).

Note to participants: Please wear comfortable shoes.


RENEWABLE ENERGY STUDIES

Sessions: II, III
Ages: 1114

Lead Instructor: Allison Bender, outreach and events coordinator, Wisconsin Energy Institute

Become an energy expert and learn how researchers are working together to advance the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. How can we make the best windmill? Can prairie plants replace petroleum in our cars and trucks? Everybody is needed — from engineers to artists to politicians. Join us to learn why renewable energy is so exciting, and put your new knowledge to work with hands-on activities.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Design a wind turbine and test it to see how much power you can generate in a wind tunnel
  • Conduct an experiment to see how much ethanol you can make from plants
  • Become an oral historian and interview your grandparents about changes in their lifetime

Physical Activity Level: Medium

Note to participants: Please wear closed-toe shoes for being in the lab, bring a water bottle, and dress for the weather.


RESTORATION ECOLOGY

Sessions: I, III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Jennifer Mitchell, youth and community education specialist, UW–Madison Arboretum

Participants will investigate the Arboretum’s Native Plant Garden, Curtis Prairie, and Teal Pond Wetland to learn about plant and animal habitats. Through these investigations and close observations of Wisconsin native plants and insects, participants will learn about pollination, invasive species, the importance of restoring lands to native habitats, and research being done at the Arboretum.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Make observations of Wisconsin native plants and animals
  • Participate in a work party by removing invasive species and playing tug-a-suckle
  • Become a citizen scientist by practicing monitoring skills, and collecting and submitting data

Physical Activity Level: High

Note to participants: Be prepared for the weather and mosquitoes. Wear comfortable walking shoes and a hat. Bring a raincoat if rain is in the forecast. On Friday, wear long pants, closed-toe shoes, and a long-sleeve shirt.


SciArt GARDEN ADVENTURES

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: Reba Luiken, director, Allen Centennial Garden, Department of Horticulture, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Learn how the Allen Centennial Garden’s gardening practices are helping to mitigate the effects of urban life and climate change by connecting people to plants. In this major, participants will get their hands dirty and leave with a new-found appreciation for plants.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Create a nature journal and practice your powers of observation
  • Collaborate on a nature-based art installation in Allen Centennial Garden
  • Tie-dye with plants

Physical Activity Level: High. Significant movement and physical activity, including walking or hiking outdoors.

Note to participants: Allen Centennial Garden has NO indoor facilities on site. We will be outside for the entire session, so please dress for the weather and the possibility of getting dirty. Participants may come into contact with bees or other allergens found in nature. There is alternative classroom space for inclement weather.


SOCIAL ROBOTICS

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 1114

Lead Instructor: Bilge Mutlu, Professor, Department of Computer Science

Come meet a robot! In this major, you’ll learn how researchers are developing social robots for our everyday lives. Participants will study the social cues that these robots use to interact more easily with humans. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn how to program a robot to emulate some of these characteristics.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn how social robotics are involved in our lives
  • Observe human behavior and translate behaviors into programs
  • Program robots to emulate social characteristics

Physical Activity Level: Low


SOUTH POLE SCIENCES

Session: II
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Ellen Bechtol

Join us for a hands-on exploration of IceCube, the biggest and strangest telescope in the world. Learn about the lives of the men and women who are working in the extreme South Pole environment to develop new ways to explore the universe. You’ll learn about neutrinos — the mysterious cosmic messengers detected by IceCube — and what they tell us about the composition of matter, cosmic explosions, and more.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Become an ice driller! Ice drilling was the method used to build the IceCube detector in the Antarctic glacier. It takes about 40 hours to melt one hole at the South Pole!
  • “How do you see particles?” Rotate in small groups to show different examples of detectors — cloud chamber, DOM, ARA antennas, and cosmic watch detector.
  • Learn how to “catch” neutrinos — invisible particles that some call ghost particles — with a sand box!

Physical Activity Level: Medium


TURFGRASS & SOIL SCIENCE

Session: III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Doug Soldat, professor, Department of Soil Science, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Learn about the science of the suburban environment! You will explore grasses, insects, fungi, and soils while learning about how scientists study these things to enhance the quality of life in urban areas while protecting the environment.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Explore a soil pit and build a miniature model of soil
  • Play tennis on a grass court and learn about different types of grasses
  • Study fungi under a microscope

Physical Activity Level: Medium. Some walking between buildings and across turfgrass research field plots.

Note to participants: Bring sunscreen.


VETERINARY MEDICINE

Session: III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Karen Hershberger-Braker, lecturer, Department of Comparative Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine

Participants will work with live animals (dogs, cows, and horses) to learn the basics of physical examination and handling. We’ll explore comparative anatomical features, drawing on knowledge of the human form, and the basics of health and well-care in our veterinary patients. We’ll explore the depth and breadth of the veterinary profession through many fun, hands-on activities.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Perform a physical exam on a dog and a horse; explore the ruminant stomach of a cow
  • Analyze radiographs (x-rays) from real patients seen at UW Veterinary Care teaching hospital
  • Explore the hearts and brains of various veterinary species with hands-on activities

Physical Activity Level: Medium

Note to participants: Travel outside the country or contact with farm animals 14 days prior to the start of the program is prohibited. We are in contact with live (healthy) animals, which may be an allergy concern for some.


WILDLIFE ECOLOGY

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 7–14

Lead Instructor: Jamie Nack, Division of Extension senior wildlife outreach specialist, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Take a walk on the wild side! In this major, you’ll learn about dozens of Wisconsin’s fascinating wild animals, from ruby-throated hummingbirds to black bears. Then, pick up the basic techniques of bird identification and bird-watching. Finally, test your new skills by going on a scavenger hunt around campus in search of wildlife and the clues they’ve left behind.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Make plaster animal tracks
  • Tour the wildlife “museum” and see hundreds of specimens, including birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians
  • Explore Lakeshore Path in search of wildlife

Physical Activity Level: High

Note to participants: This program will occur rain or shine. Dress appropriately for the weather. If you have binoculars, please bring them along.


WONDERS OF PHYSICS

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Mallory Conlon, quantum science outreach coordinator, Wisconsin Quantum Institute

Participants will learn the wonders of physics in a fun — and delicious — series of experiments! You will learn some physics basics before putting those new skills to the test!

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn the mechanics behind building an amazing Rube Goldberg machine
  • Make ice cream using liquid nitrogen
  • Build your own clock with a competition on who can make the most precise one

Physical Activity Level: Low