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The majors below are for 2023 Grandparents University ® (GPU). We are in the process of confirming a few more majors. An email confirming 2023 majors will be sent in early February 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 major icon

Session: 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 — Meet Upham Woods education animals and learn about reptile adaptations.

Physical Activity Level: High

Note to Participants: Wear shoes you can comfortably walk in. We will be going outside, so dress appropriately for the weather.


Art major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 7–14

Lead Instructor: Candi Waterloo, Head of Education, Chazen Museum of Art

Leave your pencils at home and bring your imagination as we explore the
wonderful world of drawing! Using inspiration from artworks in the Chazen Museum of Arts’
permanent collection, we’ll experiment with fabric, thread, and printmaking to see where our
minds — and hands — can take us. No experience with art or drawing is necessary, but a
willingness to play is required!

Anticipated Activities:

  • Go behind-the-scenes to examine a work of art in storage
  • Create a linoleum block print
  • Experiment with various art media and techniques including oil pastels, watercolor, ink, printmaking, and collage

Physical Activity Level: Medium

Note to Participants: Though the major is mostly seated, there will be occasional periods of
standing for up to 20 minutes at a time. Art materials may stain clothes so participants should
dress accordingly or bring an apron/smock.


Astronomy major icon

Session: II
Ages: 7–10

Lead Instructor: Kay Kriewald, Outreach Specialist, Astronomy

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:

  • Build a scale model of the planets using play dough and construct a model showing the phases of the moon.
  • Learn about the constellations and make a star finder to help you locate them.
  • Tour historic Washburn Observatory and find out more about the history of the telescope as well as the building.

Physical Activity Level: Low

Note to Participants: Access to the telescope at Washburn is only by the stairs.


Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: Tom Zinnen, Biotech Extension Specialist, 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


Chinese Language and Culture major icon

Sessions: I, 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. We will also explore Chinese culture through cultural activities such as Chinese Calligraphy, songs, and festivals.

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
  • Explore and practice Chinese calligraphy
  • Experience Chinese festivals through videos and hands-on activities (making moon cake, paper lantern, etc)

Physical Activity Level: Low


Civic Engagement and Policy Change major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Sarah Schlosser, Organizational and Leadership Development Program Manager, UW–Madison, Division of Extension

Participants will learn how they can contribute to improving their communities by becoming civically engaged. We will explore how anyone can be part of shaping policies in their school, neighborhood, and community.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Shaping Policy — Learn what policy is, and identify policies that affect you, your friends, neighbors and family.
  • Civic Engagement Case Studies — Dive into examples of where youth have made a difference in their communities, and learn what civic engagement looks like.
  • Be a Changemaker Activity — Identify something you want to improve in your school, neighborhood, or community, and develop a plan to take action.

Physical Activity Level: Low


Computer Science major icon

Sessions: I, II
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: Cole Nelson, graduate student, 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 what it means to be a computer scientist
  • See how computer science is used in other fields such as art, agriculture, fashion, and physics
  • Learn how to program in Scratch, a friendly programming environment designed for beginners

Physical Activity Level: Low


Digital Storytelling major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Allyson Gross, Ph. D. Candidate, Department of 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 major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Feng He, Senior Scientist, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research

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 the 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 Virtual Field Trip

Physical Activity Level: Low


Entomology major icon

Session: II, III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Jacki Whisenant, Museum Volunteer, Zoology (Integrative Biology) and

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 learn to pin your own insect
  • Go on an outdoor expedition to find and collect insects
  • Learn about the insects that you can find in Wisconsin

Physical Activity Level: Medium


Geology major icon

Sessions: I, III
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 Play-Doh model of Wisconsin's bedrock geology
  • Build your collection of Wisconsin's rocks
  • Learn how groundwater works

Physical Activity Level: Low


Journalism major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Kelsey Brannan, Director of Radio, 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


Limnology major icon

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 major icon

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:

  • Portion out a meat product
  • Experiment with cooking methods
  • Perform a taste test on the prepared food products

Physical Activity Level: Medium/High

Note to participants: You must wear closed-toe shoes and jewelry may need to be removed for a tour of the facility; you will have the opportunity to use knives and cook products with safety equipment provided.


Meteorology major icon

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 major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: Jamie Henke, distinguished teaching professor, 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 scat singing and create our own chants. Along the way, we will explore UW Marching Band favorites.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn about blues chords and the 12-bar blues
  • Learn about scat singing Badger style, create a jump rope chant
  • Explore UW Marching Band favorites

Physical Activity Level: Low


Nursing major icon

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 where nurses work and people we collaborate with to care for patients
  • 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


Pharmacy major icon

Sessions: I, III
Ages: 1114

Lead Instructors:

  • Dave Mott, PhD '95, FAPhA, RPh, William S. Apple Distinguished Chair
  • Edmund J Elder Jr, PhD, RPh, Director, Zeeh Pharmaceutical Experiment Station, andAdministrative Director, Lachman Institute for Pharmaceutical Development
  • Jessica Bergsbaken, PharmD, BCPPS, Teaching faculty
  • Edward Portillo, PharmD '14, Assistant Professor, School of Pharmacy

Explore the world of pharmacy — visit several interactive stations and get your passport stamped as you learn about the role of pharmacists and the science behind helping people live better, healthier lives. You’ll also discover how to identify certain medications, how “compounding” is measured, how best to communicate with patients, and how to prepare and distribute medicines safely. Plus, enjoy the chance to make your own candy gummy bears — that you can eat — and take home your own lab coat.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Make candy gummy bears while learning the proper ways to prepare and give out medicines
  • Put yourself in the shoes of a pharmacist during this role-playing exercise with your family member on medication safety
  • Go exploring on a tour of pharmacy labs and facilities

Physical Activity Level: Medium

Note to Participants: Major will have mostly seated activities. Some movement and walking are
required. An elevator is available. Closed-toe shoes are required in the laboratory


Renewable Energy Studies major icon

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 major icon

Sessions: 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 Adventure major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: Ryan Dostal, Events and Programs Lead, Allen Centennial Garden

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:

  • Observe and journal about nature and the natural world
  • Create works of art using plant-based dyes
  • Learn how to use microscopes and how plants make seeds
  • Gather seeds to take home

Physical Activity Level: Medium

Note to participants: Come dressed for the weather; there is walking from Allen Centennial Garden to Lake Mendota; this event will be outside unless there is lightning or heavy rain.


Social Robotics major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Callie Y. Kim, PhD Candidate, 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 what "social robots" are and how they are are involved in our life.
  • Design a human-robot social interaction by observing human behavior.
  • Program robots to emulate social characteristics.

Physical Activity Level: Low


Session: III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Alisa King-Klemperer, Communications Manager, Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC)

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! Work in teams to drill the ice like they do in the Antarctic Glacier.
  • Experience IceCube through virtual reality
  • Calibrate your very own detector

Physical Activity Level: Medium


Turfgrass and Soil Science major icon

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:

  • Investigate a soil pit and learn about lawns
  • Build a model of a soil profile
  • Play golf, soccer, and tennis on very short grass
  • Use a microscope to explore the tiniest of things

Physical Activity Level: Medium to High

Note to participants: One day will be mostly outdoors, so prepare for the weather. There will be some walking between locations on both days.


Veterinary Medicine major icon

Sessions: II, III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Karen Hershberger-Braker, Assistant Teaching Professor, Comparative Biosciences & Pathobiological Sciences

Participants will work with live animals 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:

  • Compare anatomical features among various veterinary species with hands-on activities
  • Prepare yourself and an animal patient (model) for surgery
  • Interact with the teaching animals, such as exploring the ruminant stomach of a cow

Physical Activity Level: Medium

Note to participants: No travel outside the country or contact with farm animals within 2 weeks of the program. Caution regarding animal allergies as we may handle live animals (dog, horse, cow).

Starting in 2024, the age range for Veterinary Medicine will change to 7–10 year-olds


Wildlife Ecology major icon

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


Wonders of Physics major icon

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 about albedo through a climate science activity
  • Tour the Quantum lab and build a clock
  • Make ice cream using liquid nitrogen
  • Visit the Ingersoll Physics Museum

Physical Activity Level: Low