By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
For a few hours last month, the gym at Conneaut Elementary School was transformed into a wetlands, prairie, woodland and river.
For one day last week, all of Bowling Green’s fourth graders took part in the BG Math Invasion 2017.
And every week, girls are beating the odds by joining the “Girls Who Code” program held after school every Monday.
This is science, math and technology being made fun.
“They are really into it,” Nichole Simonis, fifth grade science and reading teacher at Conneaut said about the COSI on Wheels program. “They are so excited about science. They were talking about it all morning. They saw the COSI truck and started cheering.”
The COSI visit was funded by an anonymous donor, Simonis said.
This was not a typical science lesson, nor a typical science teacher. With her portable mic on her head, Alex Wilkins quickly paced around the gym and fired off questions to the kids about ecology, habitats, and food chains.
In the prairie setting, one student was decked out with wings and fuzzy feet and told to “be a bumble bee.” She slurped the nectar off one flower and shared it with another.
They talked about seeds.
“So seeds don’t have legs. I’ve been walking all over this gym, but seeds can’t do that,” Wilkins said.
So another student came up to turn on a giant fan to blow seeds across the gym.
They talked about other seed options – like burrs sticking to pant legs. “That’s seeds being really sneaky,” Wilkins said.
Then came the topic that triggered giggling among the students. Seeds also travel to other sites when animals like bears eat them.
“Every animal does it – they poop,” Wilkins said. “Poop is really high in nutrients. That seed comes out ready to grow.”
Next, in the river area, the students learned little tidbits like American bullfrogs have no necks, large mouth bass are carnivorous, Eastern box turtles’ shells grow with them, and dragonflies can fly upside down. “Which is pretty cool, not a lot of bugs can do that,” Wilkins said.
On the math front, about 240 fourth graders gathered in the community center last Monday for the BG Math Invasion 2017.
“Today we are trying to get kids excited about learning different kinds of math,” said Laura Weaver, gifted coordinator. The students were using Roman numerals, logic and more.
“There are different ways to do math,” Weaver said. “All kids can do math.”
One of the goals was to help students become more comfortable with math.
“We are trying to take the anxiety and stress out of high-stakes testing,” Weaver said.
There were team building games to get students from the different elementaries to work together. They designed paper airplanes to achieve the most distance and velocity.
“We felt fourth grade was that year of transition,” from elementary to more advanced math, Weaver said.
The Math Invasion was supported by Lubrizol which bought T-shirts for the students, Dominoes which supplied pizza for lunch, and the elementary PTOs.
Then onto technology, where a computer room at the middle school was packed last Monday with girls working on coding in an after school group called “Girls Who Code.”
The program is a nationwide effort to help girls realize that computer coding is a career open to both genders. “The organizer noticed a major gender inequity of boys and girls in computer science,” said Jodi Anderson, secondary curriculum coordinator.
The curriculum is free and four teachers volunteer their time for the weekly program. There are 24 girls in “Girls Who Code,” with a waiting list of others who want to join.
In addition to the coding lessons, there is also emphasis on girls’ abilities in technology fields.
“There’s a sisterhood component,” Anderson said. The girls learn from and encourage each other. “It’s a place where they feel safe to do so.”
As inspiration, the girls also do Skyping with women in tech careers, including a Bowling Green graduate who is an engineer at Intel.
Bowling Green Middle School is one of very few sites in Northwest Ohio that offers the program, Anderson said.