All Summer Expeditions dates have concluded for the Summer. For K-8 programs during the school year, please visit our Afterschool Expeditions and Saturday Science pages.

Summer Expeditions is a free program for students in grades K-8 to explore, engage and discover science at UW–Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research with structured hands-on activities. The program takes place on Wednesday afternoons during the summer from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and includes two 45-minute guided activities. Summer Expeditions runs from late June to early August and will return summer 2018.

Selections vary from week to week. Each activity is led by a trained staff member or volunteer and includes interactive, hands-on activities.  

TO REGISTER You pick your adventure! The registration page will have a few different activity options to choose from for each date. You may select only ONE rotation plan per date. This lets us know which two activities you will be participating in when you come. Not all topics listed below are offered each date.

For example, registering for 6/28/17 - PLAN 1 - Fossil Exploration/Gravity Visualized and the Zipline means you will be doing a fossils activity for one 45-minute session and the gravity activity for the other 45-minute session that day. If you are registering a large group and think your group may want to divide into different activity plans, please complete separate registration forms to claim the spots in each plan. Preregistration is required as spots are limited each week.

Our activities cover a broad spectrum of scientific topics. This summer, you can select to learn about the following activities:  

  • Fossil Explorations: What are fossils and how are they formed? Discover the world of paleontology by excavating a fossil and exploring the fossils set in the limestone floor of the Town Center at the Discovery Building.
  • Gravity Visualized and the Zipline: How do gravity, potential energy, kinetic energy, force and friction work? Particpate in a design challenge to create a vehicle that can complete an obstacle course and observe how gravity dictates the movement of celestial bodies using the Gravity Well.
  • Microscopy: How do light and microscopes bring the unseen world alive? Using custom platform microscopes, you'll gather information by taking digital images and videos as you probe the world of insects and other small critters.
  • Engineering  Fluids: How do fluids behave? Make hypotheses about how fluids behave in large and small tubes and collect evidence to explain how fluids behave in small spaces. Explore how small microfluidic devices can be used in research and medicine.
  • Engineering Sound: How does sound behave? Make your own musical instruments and explore how hearing works by designing a model of medical devices.
  • Robots: How can we use robots? Program a small robot to model a process and explore how robots are used in research.
  • Visit the UW Geology Museum: What geology can we explore on campus? Groups will experience a trip to the UW Geology Museum (5 min. walk).
  • 3-D Printing: What can we make with a 3-D printer? Explore how 3-D printers work and use computers to design your own models.
  • Sustainability: How do we use energy and materials? What is sustainable? Explore energy usage and production by conducting a mock energy audit, optimize a Lego windmill and explore everyday materials.
  • Art and Science: Can we make art and do science? Explore the principles of engineering and create a work of art that conveys a feeling or concept.
  • The Slow Food UW Group: What's on my plate? Slow Food UW is driven by the dedication of UW students volunteering to help promote "good, clean and fair food for all," and depends on both the campus and Madison communities to create dialogues and bridge cultural differences by using food as a universal experience. We work hard to make local, community-conscious foods accessible and delicious!
  • Cardboard Challenge: What can you make with cardboard? Participate in a cardboard design challenge using recycled cardboard and simple tools to make something that you can use.
  • Science and Math Games: Let's play a game! Play various simple and fun science and math games in groups exploring concepts in math and science.


When You Arrive

Activities will start promptly at 1:30 p.m. Please consider arriving a few minutes early so you are prepared to begin on time.

Upon arrival, please check in with a staff member who will be located near the welcome desk at the Orchard Street entrance. Once you are checked in, you will be directed to your first 45-minute activity. At 2:15 p.m. all participants will switch to a second activity. Discovery Building staff will lead participants to their activity location during the switch. Participants are requested to stay at their activity for the full 45 minutes. 

Participant Expectations

Participants are encouraged to listen and follow directions from Discovery Building staff, volunteers and/or group chaperones.

We encourage youth to view the interactive science displays and have fun, but please keep in mind that the Discovery Building is a research facility and professional workplace. 

Chaperones and parents are expected to stay with their youth at all times. Additionally, chaperones and adults are encouraged to assist in activities, ask questions and assist with keeping youth engaged.

Transportation Reimbursement

Limited funds are available to reimburse all or part of the cost of transportation for qualifying groups to bring school-aged children to the Discovery Building for Summer Expeditions. Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis for programs that support students eligible for free/reduced lunch. Groups can indicate their interest on the registration form.


If you need immediate assistance, please contact Becky Balistreri at or 608.316.4382. If you have general questions about the program, please contact Jerrod Buckner at or 608.316.4675. 

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Summer Expeditions is supported by the Morgridge Institute for Research, UW–Madison and WARF.