children

Girls sink their teeth into STEM … and sharks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The slimy, smelly spiny dogfish sharks were placed on the lab tables in front of the young girls. “Ewwwww,” one girl said squeamishly. “I can never eat gummy sharks again,” another girl said. This was the moment they had been waiting for at Tech Trek week – shark dissection. They were armed with gloves, scalpels and scissors to open up the gray sharks native to Australia. Some were a little timid about slicing into the sharks. “Oh my goodness,” one girl said with apprehension. Others were ready to explore. “I call dibs on making the first cut,” another said with glee. The shark dissection class Wednesday at Bowling Green State University’s Tech Trek week was just one of several sessions to help the participants realize that their female gender should not keep them from careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The fifth annual Tech Trek, supported by the American Association of University Women, is intended to make STEM educations and careers more accessible to girls. The program is only open to girls, so they are encouraged to pursue their STEM interests in an environment free from stereotypes, and given the chance to believe in themselves. Tech Trek is based off of the research titled “Why So Few?” which shows that women enter STEM fields at much lower rates compared to their male peers.  The research also showed that the crucial time to get to girls before they give up on STEM careers is in junior high. “The most critical time to impact them is between seventh and eighth grade,” said…

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Playground gives foster kids place to play with parents

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A patch of grass outside Wood County Children’s Services has been turned into a wonderland for foster children. With the help of local service organizations and the county commissioners, a playground has been constructed on the grounds of Wood County Job and Family Services on East Gypsy Lane Road. The playground is to be used by foster children visiting with their birth families. “It’s for family visitation, so kids and their parents can play together in a natural environment,” explained Sandi Carsey, administrator of Wood County Children’s Services. During the average week, the Children’s Services office sees about 10 families come to the agency for supervised visitation with children who have been placed in foster care. “It’s critical that kids have contact with their families,” especially if the goal is reunification in the future, Carsey said. “The kids are attached to their families. They need to see them. They need to maintain those relationships,” she said. And the playground gives children an opportunity to do what kids do with their families – go down slides, climb equipment, be pushed on swings. In the past, Wood County Children’s Services used the Wood Lane facilities for visitation, since there was no space available at Children’s Services. But then an annex was added to Wood County Job and Family Services. The additional space gave families inside room for visits, but no outdoor play area. “The families really liked having the playground” at Wood Lane, Carsey said. So area organizations were approached about donating to the playground project. Money was contributed by Modern Woodmen, Bowling Green…


Painful loss turned into pleasure at pool for children

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Part of Leah Pekarik was dreading Wednesday. That was the day a new splash pad creature was being dedicated in honor of her daughter, Clara, who died last year at just 10 weeks old. But the other part of Pekarik was overwhelmed by the generosity of the community to turn her family’s pain into pleasure for other children in Bowling Green. With the help of community members who love Leah, her husband, Scott, and their son, Bobby, the day of dread turned into a day of joy surrounding Clara’s short life. “Everyone in this community knows Leah and loves her,” said Kristin Otley, director of the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. “So many community members contacted us and said, ‘We want to do something.’” So the park and recreation program came up with a plan. “We asked people to help us remember Clara and give other children in the community something to smile about,” Otley said. When the new aquatic center was built in City Park, there were not enough funds to furnish the “splash pad” area with “creatures” that spray water on children. The idea was to add a frog creature to the area for $6,000. “We started just with that,” Otley said of the original plan to add a frog to the splash pad in honor of Clara. “We got an outpouring of support from people who knew her and from people who didn’t know her.” So the plan grew, with the Wood County Park District donating money for a “snake” creature spitting water at the splash pad, and…


Dunn hits home run with Hometown Hero award

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Playing ball at Carter Park is a rite of passage for many Bowling Green children. It’s where they learn to run for first base, not third after hitting the ball. It’s where their families fill the bleachers to root them on. It’s where they grab a handful of gummy worms and a slush after hot nights on the field. So Modern Woodmen recently honored the man who has devoted 41 years to the BG Youth Baseball program as a “Hometown Hero.” Tim Dunn was recognized at the Carter Park diamonds last month, and the fans seemed to appreciate the honor, since Modern Woodmen paid for hot dogs and drinks for anyone interested. “About 400 people took them up on it,” Dunn said. Many of the young ball players may be unfamiliar with Dunn and this enduring role with the youth baseball program. He started in 1976 by taking care of the grounds as a kid. He went on to umpire in high school, became Pee Wee League commissioner, then president of the BG Youth Baseball and BG Pee Wee League. Dunn has held that position since 1982. He coached teams for years, but now focuses on more administrative items like the scoreboards, sponsorship contracts, and organizing eight tournaments a year. Dunn still enjoys watching games from the stands, but now he usually has a pen and pad, so he can take notes on issues that need fixed. He knows a lot of people are counting on him and the program. This year there are nearly 400 children in the youth baseball program….


BG board votes to consolidate elementaries

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Board of Education took a leap Friday afternoon to invest $72 million in a consolidated elementary and new sections for the high school. The board is now hoping the voters follow their lead. After months of discussions and public meetings, the board voted 4 to 1 to go ahead with plans for one consolidated elementary, demolition of Conneaut and Kenwood schools, and major additions to the high school. The vote against the project came from board president Ellen Scholl, who supported an alternate plan for new Conneaut and Kenwood elementaries rather than the consolidation. Though the millage to cover the $72 million project has yet to be determined by the county auditor, it is estimated it could be close to 6 mills on the November ballot. If the issue is approved by voters, the new consolidated elementary planned north of the current middle and high schools, could be completed by the summer of 2020. The high school could be completed by summer of 2021, according to architect Kent Buehrer. Construction is also planned for the middle school, where a wing will be added to adequately handle the sixth grade class. That project, which will likely begin in September, will be financed through $4.6 million in permanent improvement funds that the district already has, so it will not be part of the bond issue in November. The three options being considered for the bond issue were: Renovations of Conneaut and Kenwood elementaries (Crim was renovated recently) and major high school additions: $54 million. Build new Conneaut and Kenwood elementaries, plus the…


Reading 1,000 books to preschoolers adds up to kindergarten readiness

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Children’s Place at the Wood County Library is building on its summer reading program for school age children to launch a new program for infants through preschoolers. The library is challenging parents and child caregivers, and others in youngsters’ lives to read them 1,000 books before they enter kindergarten. Children’s librarian Maria Simon said she’s wanted to offer the national initiative as a incentive to get parents, child caregivers, relatives, and maybe even a grandparent, via Skype reading to youngsters. The program will be launched Saturday, June 3, from 10 a.m. to noon in the library atrium. Denise Fleming, an award winning author and illustrator, will be on hand. Each child who is enrolled will receive a copy of Fleming’s book “Alphabet Under Construction,” which ties into the summer reading theme “Building a Better World.” If there’s more than one child in the family signing up, another Fleming title will be available. About 100 children have already been enrolled. Simon is hoping younger siblings will sign up as older children sign up for the summer reading program. The kick-off will also include an Early Childhood Resource Fair presented by the Wood County Early Childhood Task Force as well as local childcare providers and agencies. Simon said each booth will have some sort of literacy activity. She said she’s letting them know about Fleming’s other books – she’s published more than 20 since 1991. Fleming will give a presentation to children and families, and then to those participating in the resource fair. Fleming lives in her hometown Toledo where she creates her illustrations painting…


Levy renewal sought for child and adult protective services

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For 30 years, the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services has relied on voters to provide funds to protect local children and seniors. This year will be no different. There have been times when expenses and needs are lower, that the voters have been given a break and the levy has gone uncollected for a year. But that is unlikely to occur again anytime soon considering the most recent increase in abuse and neglect reports. “They are on a record pace for child abuse and neglect complaints,” said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. It doesn’t help that Ohio is “dead last” among the states for funding of child protective services, according to Dave Wigent, director of Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. Even if Ohio were to double its spending for child services, the state will still be last, he said. “We’re forced to support with levy funding from the local level,” Wigent said. “We’re in an embarrassing situation for child welfare support,” he said. Also not helping is the uncertainty of the federal budget. If the cuts were to proceed as proposed by President Donald Trump, child abuse and neglect funding would be slashed further. “It would have a devastating effect on us here,” Wigent said. Wigent presented his request to put the renewal 1.3-mill levy on the November ballot this year to the Wood County Commissioners. The commissioners gave the levy request their verbal blessing, and will have staff prepare a resolution to get it on the ballot, Kalmar said. The millage, to be collected for…