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Majors

The majors below are for Grandparents University ® (GPU) 2024. An email confirming 2024 majors was 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

Animal Ecology major icon

Sessions: II, III
Ages: 7–14

Lead Instructor: Amy Workman, director, 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

Art major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 7–14

Lead Instructor: Kara Morris, education coordinator, 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:

  • Tour Chazen’s art collection.
  • Work with a local artist.
  • Experiment with various art media and techniques.

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

Astronomy major icon

Session: I
Ages: 7–10

Lead Instructor: Kay Kriewald, outreach specialist, Department of 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-Doh 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.


BIOTECHNOLOGY

Biotechnology major icon

Session: I
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Liz Jesse ’98, science outreach 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, investigate which milks make better bubbles, and run an electrophoresis experiment to analyze samples of “alien blood.”

Anticipated Activities:

  • Extract DNA glop from wheat.
  • Investigate which makes better bubbles: skim milk or whole?
  • Run the “Alien Blood Electrophoresis” gel.

Physical Activity Level: Low to Medium


CHINESE LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

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, an interactive map, a matching game, the telephone game, the four corners game, and role play.
  • Explore and practice Chinese calligraphy.
  • Experience Chinese festivals through videos and hands-on activities (making moon cake, a paper lantern, etc).

Physical Activity Level: Low


CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AND POLICY

Civic Engagement and Policy major icon

Sessions: I, III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Elizabeth McCrank, community leadership development specialist, Community Development Institute

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 — 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

Computer Science major icon

Session: I
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: Kristin Brown ’97, instructor, Department of Computer Sciences

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


DAIRY SCIENCE

Dairy Science major icon

Session: I
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Scott Rankin, professor, Department of Food Science

Explore the world of dairy science with a focus on UW–Madison’s very own Babcock ice cream. You will become an ice cream expert, designing your own flavor, making ice cream, and tasting Babcock ice cream flavors while learning about dairy processing.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn the ins and outs of dairy processing.
  • Design your own unique ice cream flavor.
  • Make and taste Babcock ice cream.

Physical Activity Level: Medium

Note to Participants: Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes and long pants. Remove all jewelry and if applicable, tie your hair back in a hair tie.


DIGITAL STORYTELLING

Digital Storytelling major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 1114

Lead Instructor: Allyson Gross MA'21, PhD 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

Earth's Climate major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Feng He MS'08, PhD'11, senior scientist, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, 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


EDUCATION

Education major icon

Session: II
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Thomas Owenby PhD’18, associate dean of teacher education, School of Education

You will explore the ways in which teachers learn how to teach. Areas of focus will include building a learning community, understanding yourself in relation to others, and learning how to teach a concept.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Construct a mind map of a chosen subject.
  • Participate in team- and community-building activities.
  • Serve as an expert and provide instruction to fellow participants.

Physical Activity Level: Medium


ENTOMOLOGY

Entomology major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: PJ Liesch MS’10, outreach program manager, Department of Entomology

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:

  • Go on an outdoor expedition to find and collect insects.
  • Design your own arthropod activity.
  • Observe and hold a variety of live insects.

Physical Activity Level: High


ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Entrepreneurship major icon

Sessions: I, II
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Julie Wood ’82, MS’07, emerita, Wisconsin School of Business

Learn what an entrepreneur is, including what an entrepreneur does and the characteristics that make up a successful entrepreneur. Participants will choose a business idea, based on their unique talents and skills, and will create marketing materials and develop that idea using the Business Model Canvas.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Run your own paper airplane business through the Biz Ops Game.
  • Choose your own business idea and create marketing materials.
  • Create a Business Model Canvas for your business idea.

Physical Activity Level: Low


GEOLOGY

Geology major icon

Sessions: II, III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Melissa Reusche’13, MS’17, PhD candidate, Department of Geology

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 and gain an understanding of Wisconsin's rich geologic past. They will also explore the rocks that contain water and 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


MEAT SCIENCE — HOT DOGS

Meat Science Hot Dogs major icon

Session: III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Margaret Costello, research assistant, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences

Have you ever wondered why hot dogs 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 meat and make (and eat) hot dogs while learning about the science of meat processing every step of the way!

Anticipated Activities:

  • Make hot dogs.
  • Conduct a sensory evaluation of different hot dogs.
  • Learn about the science of meat processing.

Physical Activity Level: Medium

Note to Participants: Please wear closed-toe shoes and bring a light jacket to wear during the meat plant tour.


MEAT SCIENCE — POULTRY

Meat Science Poultry major icon

Session: I
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Jessica Brown PhDx’25, research assistant, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences

Have you ever wondered why chicken nuggets 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 meat and make (and eat) chicken nuggets 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.
  • Learn about the science of meat processing.

Physical Activity Level: Medium

Note to Participants: Please wear closed-toe shoes and bring a light jacket to wear during the meat plant tour.


METEOROLOGY

Meteorology major icon

Session: I
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: David Mikolajczyk’12, MS’22, researcher, Antarctic Meteorological Research and Data Center

Learn about forces that create our local weather patterns and about UW contributions to the field of satellite meteorology. In this major, you’ll view real-time imagery of Earth and its atmosphere on a 3D 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:

  • Explore the Space Science and Engineering Center 3D globe room.
  • Make weather observations from the Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences roof.
  • Learn about Antarctic meteorological research.

Physical Activity Level: Low


MUSIC

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

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


NUTRITIONAL SCIENCE

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: Joseph Pierre, assistant professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences

Have you ever wondered how nutrients in food affect your body? Explore the world of nutritional science during this major as you learn about the human body and its interactions with food.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Build an intestinal tract.
  • Learn about digestion.
  • Explore healthy food options.

Physical Activity Level: Medium


PHARMACY

Pharmacy major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 1114

Lead Instructors:

  • Dave Mott, PhD'95, William S. Apple Distinguished Chair, professor, and associate dean for advancement
  • Edmund J. Elder, Jr., director, Zeeh Pharmaceutical Experiment Station, and administrative director, Lachman Institute for Pharmaceutical Development
  • Jessica Bergsbaken, teaching faculty, School of Pharmacy
  • 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 custom medication is made, 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 medication safety role-playing exercise with your family member on medication safety.
  • Learn about the discovery of new medications.

Physical Activity Level: Medium

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


RADIO BROADCASTING

Radio Broadcasting major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 914

Lead Instructor: Kelsey Brannan ’14, 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


RESTORATION ECOLOGY

Restoration Ecology major icon

Session: III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Madeline Smith MS’22, community education coordinator, 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

SciArt Garden Adventures major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Ryan Dostal, outreach specialist, plant and agroecosystem sciences, 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.
  • Harvest flowers to create works of art.
  • Harvest, dissect, and grind flowers and plants to create unique water colors.

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

Social Robotics major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Callie Y. Kim, graduate student, Department of Computer Sciences

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 lives.
  • Design a human-robot social interaction by observing human behavior.
  • Program robots to emulate social characteristics.

Physical Activity Level: Medium


SOUTH POLE SCIENCES

South Pole Sciences major icon

Session: II
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 researchers 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: Low


SUSTAINABLE ENERGY SOLUTIONS

Sustainable Energy Solutions 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.


THEATRE AND DRAMA

Theater and Drama major icon

Session: III
Ages: 1114

Lead Instructor: Baron Kelly PhD’03, professor, Department of Theatre and Drama

Participants will engage in a form of free play in the class with each other and individually. Exercises in the psycho/physical connection with each other will open up the channel of joy, spontaneity, and creativity.

Anticipated Activities:

  • Learn how an actor can be activated through physical play.
  • Create an acting scene.
  • Explore kinesthetic responses to your environment.

Physical Activity Level: Medium

Note to participants: Wear rubber bottom shoes (sneakers or exercise shoes), no hard sole shoes please.


VETERINARY MEDICINE

Veterinary Medicine major icon

Session: I
Ages: 710

Lead Instructor: Karen Herschberger-Braker DVM'10, assistant teaching professor, Department of Comparative Biosciences and 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 two weeks of the program. Caution regarding animal allergies as we may handle live animals (dog, horse, cow).


WILDLIFE ECOLOGY

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

Note to participants: The program is outdoors, rain or shine, so dress appropriately for the weather. If you have binoculars, please bring them with you.


WONDERS OF PHYSICS

Wonders of Physics major icon

Sessions: I, II, III
Ages: 714

Lead Instructor: Haddie McLean ’00, outreach program manager, Department of Physics

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 how to break glass without sound.
  • Tour the quantum lab and make a paper circuit greeting card.
  • Make ice cream using liquid nitrogen.
  • Visit the Ingersoll Physics Museum.

Physical Activity Level: Medium