Tag Archives: kathryn reed

Grandparents University: Why it’s important and how you can get involved

Have you heard about Grandparents University? It is the largest intergenerational program in the nation, Michigan State University (MSU) alumni are invited to bring their grandchildren to campus for a three-day summer camp where they choose from almost 200 sessions. Each year, Grandparents University serves over 1,300 guests. This year, 632 adults and 678 youth participated in the program, which took place June 27–29.

Grandparents University is an important collaboration and MSU Extension has been involved since the beginning. Grandparents University started 12 years ago when Kathryn Reed, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources alumni relations director, and Mike Steger, former MSU College of Natural Science faculty member, learned about the program from Oklahoma State University.

“It began because it was a great way to showcase majors and bring alumni back to campus,” Kathryn said. “Extension helped bring in meaningful programming since the beginning.”

This year, we had five colleagues from MSU Extension host sessions, and here are their experiences:

2017 was the sixth year the MSU Beef Cattle Teaching & Research Center participated in Grandparents University. Daniel Buskirk, MSU associate professor and beef Extension specialist, led the session on beef cattle.

“We begin with an ‘entrance exam’ and then explore the MSU Beef Center in search of answers,” Daniel said. “The kids love learning about what cows eat, what a bull weighs and seeing young calves. The grandparents like learning about the science involved in beef production, animal care and the origin of beef cuts.”

Georgia Peterson, MSU Extension specialist, took students to MSU’s Sanford Natural Area, located along the Red Cedar River for her Exploring Our Forests session.

“We discussed the most common tree species found there, along with other plants and animals that call it home,” Georgia said. “As we walked the trails of this forest, the kids were especially interested in finding plants (including trees) that have special features, like the sassafras with its ‘mitten’ leaves and fragrant stems.”

Laurie Rivetto, MSU Extension educator, led two sessions of Spartan Dollars and Cents where 28 youth and 24 grandparents engaged in several activities such as Needs vs. Wants, the Allowance Game and M&M Budgeting. At the end of each 90-minute session, youth created a Spend/Save/Share/Invest bank.

“It was a great group, and youth and adults commented on how interactive and fun the sessions were and how much they learned,” Laurie said. “The program really encouraged conversation between the grandparents and youth. The participants were involved in engaging in a needs and wants continuum where they stand on a line based on how much they feel an item is a need or a want. Having two different generations participate leads to some different perspectives on what needs and wants are.”

Visit the Grandparents University website to see the recap video from 2017 that features Laurie’s Needs vs. Wants activity toward the end of the video.

Michelle Neff, MSU Extension educator, has been involved with Grandparents University for the past three years. This year, she led a new yoga and mindfulness session for youth and grandparents.

“I really enjoy teaching this audience because the grandparents and students are very eager to learn. It is also cool to see youth and adults come from all over the country and state to attend this event,” said Michelle.

Dixie Sandborn, MSU Extension specialist, shared that during her Chocolate Culture and Creativity session, grandparents and grandchildren sample chocolates from around the world and make their own chocolate treats.

“Participants loved how hands-on and interactive it was. They also learn interesting facts and the science behind chocolate,” Dixie said. “For example, 200 cacao beans could once buy a turkey. During World War II, the Germans created an exploding, chocolate-covered, thin steel bomb, designed to blow up 7 seconds after a piece was broken off. People who eat chocolate one to three times per month live longer. The flowers of the cacao tree are only pollinated by tiny gnats.”

Amy Carnahan, director of Grandparents University as well as of the President’s Graduate Receptions, spoke to us about the importance of having Extension staff members host sessions.

“We love having new classes every year and we usually hope for 20 percent of classes that are new and different,” Amy said. “I’ve found that Extension has been amazing for us.”

Are you interested in hosting a few sessions at Grandparents University next year? The 2018 event is scheduled for June 26–28. The MSU Alumni Association will cover travel expenses for your participation and will also provide $10 per participant for supplies for your session. If you have any questions or want to learn more about hosting sessions, contact Amy at carnah10@msu.edu.

Don’t need any more information and are ready to sign up? Visit the Grandparents University Instructor Registration page.

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Grandparents University – a professional and personal opportunity

Grandparents University, scheduled for June 24–26, provides an opportunity for 8- to 12-year-olds to experience life on the Michigan State University campus. They get to live on campus, eat where the college students eat and even take classes. An added enhancement is that they do it all with their grandparent or favorite adult. Besides sparking an interest in potential future Spartans, the event brings alumni back to campus, providing an intergenerational experience that creates a connection between the participants and MSU.

More than 1,000 participants from 35 states and Canada attended the 2013 Grandparents University. A post-event survey reflected extremely positive reviews.

Kathryn Reed, assistant director of alumni relations and special events in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, invited me to encourage you to be a part of this unique experience by lending your expertise to presenting a session. Many who take part say that participating in Grandparents University is one of their favorite activities. It’s one of those experiences that you’ve heard about – the kind that after it’s over, people overwhelmingly say they get back more than they give.

You’ll also gain professional experience. It’s an opportunity to hone teaching skills and materials, to learn public opinion on the topic you cover and to think about your subject from a different standpoint due to the diversity of the participants.

Last year, Extension educator Laurie Rivetto presented a financial management session and pronounced it “a ton of fun.”

Laurie normally works with youth using the MSU Extension 4-H-created Spartan Dollars and Cents budgeting simulation. The Grandparents University session allowed her to use the simulation with both adults and children.

“Although my target audience is usually youth, this session had the additional outcome that the adults got a lot out of it, too, “said Laurie.

The adults found it challenging in the simulation to have to stick with a limited budget. Many remarked that it helped them to relate to different budget scenarios that others might be grappling with. For example, some found they could not afford to purchase health care insurance within the budget and a discussion took place about the challenges of this arrangement.

Laurie also said that taking part in Grandparents University gave her a different perspective.

“It was neat to be a part of a program that involved so many different departments and units, including Extension, at the University. It was a great team effort,” she said.

This year Extension educator Frank Cox will join Laurie in presenting Spartan Dollars and Sense. They’ll also present the Wonderful World of Work in which the generations will learn from each other about work.

Grandparents University 2011 participants take part in one of the many sessions offered at the Michigan State University annual event.

Grandparents University 2011 participants take part in one of the many sessions offered at the Michigan State University annual event. Courtesy of Grandparents University.

If you decide to present, you’ll need to target your 90-minute session to the 8- to 12-year-old audience, making sure that what you present is a fun, interactive, hands-on lesson that holds kids’ interest. You don’t have to be limited to the classroom. You can conduct your session in a lab, on the farm or another location. Need more than 90 minutes? You can sign up for two 90-minute sessions, given as Part I and Part II. It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel. Why not just adapt a program or outreach effort you currently teach?

Interested? Contact Kathryn at 355-0284 or at kreed@msu.edu by November 7. (The deadline has recently been extended.) When you do, please let her know the following:

  •  The name of the session leader
  • Session title
  • A short description that can be included in promotional materials (3 to 5 sentences long)
  • The number of people the session can accommodate (Sessions are as small as 10 people and as large as 200. The average is about 25.)
  • The name of the person coordinating
  • If a specific classroom or lab is required
  • If there is a day or time during these three days when the session cannot be led (if known)

Last year, in addition to Laurie, Extension educators Jed Jaworski, Georgia Peterson, Dixie Sandborn and Jessica Wright participated. Charles Gould, Paul Gross, Dennis Pennington and Mark Seamon have participated for years but were unable to present in 2013. These four have already committed for 2014.

Others who have presented in the past include Laura Allen, Bindu Bhakta, Constance Costner, Dale Elsoff, Andrea Grix, Vanessa Holmes, Betsy Knox, LuAnne Kozma, Cyndi Mark, Emily Proctor, Kama Ross, Erica Tobe and Sheila Urban Smith.

By the way, several faculty members on campus have used their Grandparents University sessions in grant applications when an outreach or other similar component is required.

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On-campus events strengthen off-campus outreach

It never ceases to amaze me how smoothly 4-H Exploration Days (led by Judy Ratkos) and the 4-H State Awards program (led by Jake DeDecker) come off each year, and this year was no exception. Behind the scenes, county and state staff members, volunteers, interns, parents, outside instructors, chaperones and countless others dealt with crises and problems as they cropped up, but to the more than 2,000 youth who participated last week, these events seemed to run like clockwork. New sessions on topics such as worm farming or working with sled dogs were hits, as were returning favorites such as producing a TV show or climbing and rappelling.

 And it seemed that no sooner did the last of the Exploration Days youth leave for home, when another group moved in – youth and grandparents for Grandparents University (led by Kathryn Reed). Since Tuesday of this week, hundreds of youth/grandparent teams have been experiencing campus life and learning about how MSU milk becomes cheese and ice cream, aquatic ecology, “green” packaging, digital storytelling – even Israeli folk dancing!

 The Grandparents U folks head for home today, but next week MSU welcomes yet ANOTHER group to campus – participants and chaperones for 4-H’s first ever Discovery Camp (led by Jake DeDecker). This small group of 10 teens will get a much more intimate experience, spending a week learning about alternative energy solutions both on campus and through several field trips. Not only do these camps make for a busy few weeks here on campus, but they also strengthen the conduit between knowledge and resources on the MSU campus and our “clients” out in the state who are the main audience for MSU Extension’s outreach mission.

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