Students and their siblings share campus life at Sibs Day

April 13, 2016 By Lisa Speckhard

There’s spilled milk on the table, but no one is crying. Not only do people look quite happy, they’re experimenting with it.

Some very hands-on research with milk was part of the inaugural Sibs Day at the University of Wisconsin–Madison — a time when 200 UW students and “sibs” (brothers, sisters, or other relatives or friends) shared “a day in the life of a Badger” together.

The schedule was full of uniquely Wisconsin activities, starting with a campuswide scavenger hunt. Later, sibs took part in service projects like decorating placemats for Meals on Wheels and writing cards to the troops. Other activities included open gym time, a painting lesson, an a cappella performance, and a photo shoot with the big man on campus, Bucky Badger.

For a taste of the academic, participants could drop in on classroom sessions that covered topics from nuclear fission to optical illusions to, in the words of session leader Tom Zinnen, “one of the most pressing question of all time: Which makes better bubbles, skim milk or whole?”

Zinnen leads the public outreach program of the Biotechnology Center at the UW. He taught students and their siblings about the value of scientific enterprise, and his hands-on workshop was accessible to even the youngest in attendance.

To get to the bottom of the milk mystery, he provided students with cups, milk, straws and permission to shirk the table manners every good Wisconsin mother has been trying to instill in her children for years.

“When I come down other times, we don’t really know where to go. Here, you’re forced to go somewhere you’ve never been.”

Sarah Bartlett

“Watch this!” said Jackson Steward, 7, blowing into his straw. Milk bubbles quickly rose two inches above the rim of his cup.

Jackson and his brother Brady, 10, were visiting their older brother, Jace, a UW–Madison freshman. They’re here because they wanted to hang out with their brother, but this is just one of the perks of Sibs Day.

The event is also meant to excite siblings about the idea of college — “not just the UW, wherever they go,” says Monica Ruppert, who helped organize the event as parent and campus communication manager. “Although we’re really proud of UW, we want to showcase the Wisconsin Idea. We just really wanted to get them excited about college in general.”

For Sarah Bartlett, a high school sophomore visiting her sister Katherine, college is a much closer reality than it is for Brady and Jackson. Sarah, who has visited campus often, appreciated the structure of the event.

“When I come down other times, we don’t really know where to go,” she said. “Here, you’re forced to go somewhere you’ve never been.”

“We just really wanted to get them excited about college in general.”

Monica Ruppert

Katherine, in her first year at UW–Madison, thinks the day was a good way to show off her campus.

“You get a lecture setting, you get involved, and with the scavenger hunt you just get to explore campus,” she said. “They should do it every year.”

Zinnen was equally enthusiastic about Sibs Day. He enjoys seeing students and their siblings learn and explore together and believes the day encapsulates the Wisconsin Idea.

“The idea of public service, public engagement, has long been in the DNA of this place,” he told his group. “And you’re doing it by inviting your sibs — it’s one of the best things you could ever do.”