Students and siblings bond through the college experience on Sibs Day

April 12, 2017 By Kelsey O'Hara
Undergraduate Celeste Huff and his sister Melina, 6, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., stop to dance a polka by Bascom Hall and the Abraham Lincoln statue as they participate in campus scavenger hunt, part of Siblings Day at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on April 8.

Undergraduate Celeste Huff and her sister Melina, 6, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., stop to dance a polka by Bascom Hall and the Abraham Lincoln statue as they participate in a campus scavenger hunt as part of Sibs Day activities on April 8. Photo: Jeff Miller

For most college students, each day usually includes classes, work and friends, but University of Wisconsin–Madison students were able to bring their siblings to campus on Saturday, April 8, to show them a slice of life as a Badger.

More than 200 UW students and brothers, sisters or other relatives or friends gathered to experience college life, campus and the city of Madison at the UW–Madison Parent Program’s Sibs Day.

After brunch with student music performances, the day kicked off with a campus-wide scavenger hunt where siblings created their own Wisconsin buttons, rubbed Abe’s foot for luck and ended at Union South where they took their picture with Bucky Badger himself. Other events included a yoga workshop, a Terrace chair paint night with Wheelhouse Studios and a bus tour of both campus and downtown Madison.

Undergraduate CJ Zabat and his sister Abby, 15, of Bartlett, Ill., stop at Observatory Hill during the Sibs Day scavenger hunt.

Undergraduate CJ Zabat and his sister Abby, 15, of Bartlett, Illinois, stop at Observatory Hill during the Sibs Day scavenger hunt. Photo: Jeff Miller

Participants also could attend different afternoon sessions that ranged from extracting DNA in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery to a presentation about the racing chariots of Tut and Nero and history of these ancient machines with UW–Madison Professor Bela Sandor.

Students and their siblings were able to learn and collaborate to see the value of science as well as health, culture and history. Abby Zabat, 15, worked with her older brother, CJ, a sophomore at UW–Madison, to extract DNA from wheat germ and use mini tubes to create DNA bracelets during the afternoon sessions. The Zabats are from Bartlett, Illinois.

Even though Abby enjoyed the scavenger hunt and stretching her muscles at the yoga workshop, she was mostly looking forward to just visiting with her brother; “I’m enjoying the campus a lot, but I’m really enjoying hanging out with my brother.”

This year was the second annual UW Sibs Day, which was developed to fulfill three learning outcomes.

“First, we want [siblings] to learn more about higher education overall, and get excited about the idea of college,” says Monica Ruppert, parent and campus communications manager. “They are able to experience real college activities like eating in a cafeteria or experimenting in a lab… And those experiences let them imagine what college could be like for themselves.”

A second goal is for Badgers and their siblings to gain an awareness of the cultural context of the UW campus.

Undergraduate Jacob Lindemann and his brother Adam, 13, of Manitowoc, pose for a photo with mascot Bucky Badger at Union South during Sibs Day activities.

Undergraduate Jacob Lindemann and his brother Adam, 13, of Manitowoc, pose for a photo with mascot Bucky Badger at Union South during Sibs Day activities. Photo: Jeff Miller

The program included a Wisconsin Welcome from Aaron Bird Bear, Assistant Dean in the School of Education, who reflected on the history of Madison or Dejope, the name that the Ho-Chunk and other American Indians have called the Madison area for thousands of years. Students could also attend a First Nations Cultural Landscape tour that explored 12,000 years of environmental and social transformations of the Madison community, led by Rebecca Comfort, Interim American Indian Curriculum Services Consultant.

The third, and the most apparent, outcome was to have Badgers bond with their siblings. Celeste Huff, a first-year UW–Madison student, attended with her six-year-old sister, Melina, so that her younger sister could see a day in the life of a Badger. The Huffs are from Wisconsin Rapids.

“Any opportunity I have to do something fun with my sister, I’m going to take it,” Huff says. Melina definitely agreed by saying that the scavenger hunt wasn’t just good, “It was wonderful!”

“Most of all, we hope Sibs Day lets students and their siblings share meaningful time together and feel more connected to campus and each other,” says Stephanie Benson-Gonzales, assistant director for parent relations and communications. “Madison is a special place, and having our students’ families on campus makes it that much more vibrant.”