children

BG preschool program more than a nicety – not a waste of funds

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Young children with developmental and physical disabilities learn and play side-by-side with “typical” children in Bowling Green City Schools preschool program. For some of these children, this is the only time in their education where there is complete integration with other children of all abilities. “The research shows it’s very important that preschoolers with special needs benefit from being with typical developing children,” Melanie Garbig, executive director of pupil services, explained at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. The preschool program has been the target of some school critics, who have questioned why the district spends taxpayer money on the program. Garbig answered that question – because the district is legally required to do so. The school district has offered preschool for ages 3 to 5 since 1994. The program was first located in the old central administration building, then the Jordan Family Center, then Crim Elementary, and now at Conneaut Elementary. Garbig was principal of Crim when the program was housed there. “It was great to have the preschool in Crim,” she said. There are currently four preschool classrooms in the morning and in the afternoon, with a maximum of 16 children – eight with special needs and eight typical peers. “We have a lot of specialists who help develop the children,” Garbig said. There are speech language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists. The services “can make them grow like little flowers,” she said. Bowling Green’s preschool program earned the Ohio Department of Education’s 5-Star rating last year. “That means we had met all the qualifications for a preschool program,” Garbig said. “It was actually quite a feat.” The program tracks the students’ progress with Early Learning Assessments. The district is finding that all the early intervention is paying off for many students with special needs. “It really results in students not needing IEPs (Individualized Education Program) when they enter kindergarten,” Garbig said. For those who question the value of such an integrated preschool, Garbig showed a video of an economist talking about the impact of early childhood education on the economy. “Why should I pay more taxes to pay for other people’s children,” he asked. Because, to not do so would be short-sighted, he answered. When other people’s children get more education and skills, everyone benefits, he said. That is the return for having early intervention. Not to mention, the district is required to provide services to students with disabilities starting at age 3, said Emily Mennitt, school psychologist. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires…

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BG school bus cameras catch people passing illegally

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   School buses in Bowling Green are now equipped with their own type of red-light cameras. So far this school year, at least 19 vehicles have illegally passed Bowling Green City School buses stopped for picking up or dropping off children. So the district is investing in cameras mounted on the bus exteriors to catch drivers illegally passing stopped buses. Wednesday morning, Bowling Green City Schools Transportation Director Toby Snow stood outside Kenwood Elementary as the buses conducted annual emergency evacuation drills during National Bus Safety Week. But Snow is aware that one of the biggest threats comes from other vehicles sharing the road with school buses. About three years ago, the district put external cameras on three buses that were experiencing the most problems with red light runners. But then the number of vehicles running past stopped buses jumped this year, Snow said. He reported 18 to the school board earlier this month. That number has since grown to 19. “I just decided it’s a good thing to see from all of them,” Snow said of buying additional cameras. So far, 11 buses are equipped with the cameras – which cost about $750 each. Seven more cameras are on order. The district has a total of 20 school buses that carry about 1,300 students to and from school each day. The law requires drivers to stop for school buses when the red lights are on and the stop sign is extended on the side of the bus. Vehicles are required to stop at least 10 feet away from the bus. The bus drivers put yellow lights on first to warn drivers that a bus stop is approaching. If the bus is on a four-lane road, just the vehicles headed the same direction as the bus are required to stop. Bus drivers are asked to identify the vehicle, license plate and give a description of the driver for vehicles passing them illegally. But that is asking too much for drivers who are also watching a busload of children, Snow said. “It’s almost impossible,” he said. So the cameras help do the job. They are mounted at an angle so they catch license plates of passing vehicles. “We’ve had them catching them as fast as 50 mph,” Snow said. And they are able to capture license plates in daylight or darkness. “The driver can now concentrate on the children,” he said. Bowling Green is not alone having problems with drivers not stopping for buses. “It’s a nationwide issue.” Earlier…


Kiddie tractor pull set for fall Firefly Nights

From DOWNTOWN BOWLING GREEN The Kiddie Pedal Tractor Pull will take place on South Main St. in front of the H20 Church Friday, Oct. 19,. Registration for the pulls is from 6-7 p.m. and is free for ages 4-11 in conjunction with Firefly Nights- all Festival on Main Street. The Kiddie Pedal Pulls will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. Each child will receive a ribbon and frisbee for participation. The top three children will earn trophies as well as qualify and move on to the state pulls with Gary Daiber(Owner of Buckeye Pedal Pullers). Following the Kiddie Pedal Pulls there will be an Adult Pedal Pull. The Adult Pedal Pull is a $5 per person donation. Proceeds will go to benefit Downtown Bowling Green, as well as helping Firefly nights expand for the future. Adult participants may choose to compete against a friend or enemy or we will be happy to choose a competitor. Downtown Bowling Green thanks The National Tractor Pulling Championship Organization for sponsoring the Kiddie Pedal Tractor Pull. We are very excited to kick off the Pedal Pulls event and hope to continue to make this event a tradition. Contact our office with any questions about the event. Please,  email us at Marketing_Intern@Downtownbgohio.org or call 419-354-4332.  


Teachers pack the PAC for guidance and guffaws

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Elementary principal Gerry Brooks started doing videos for his staff out of frustration. How else could he do justice to the daily trials of teachers? For example, few people realize just how chaotic kindergarten lunchtime can be. But with Brooks’ southern twang, he matter-of-factly talks about his last stint on cafeteria duty. He dutifully opened 47 Lunchables, including inserting the straw into the explosive drink pouches. He engaged in debate on whether or not a pony would make a good house pet. He listened to one child talk about his grandma having six toes on one foot – to which Brooks’ responded, “She’s so fancy.” He retrieved children from underneath the tables. And he glanced down to see a little girl licking his hand. She had noticed something brown on his hand and wanted to help get it off. Sigh. Just another day at school… Brooks has been a principal for 12 years, currently at an elementary in Lexington, Kentucky. Prior to that, he was a classroom teacher for six years and an intervention specialist for two years. His videos resonate with teachers, since so many of his frustrations are universally shared among educators. Brooks has a following or more than 500,000 people. On Saturday, 1,500 of his fans crowded into two presentations by Brooks at the Bowling Green City Schools Performing Arts Center. The event, hosted by the Bowling Green Education Association, attracted teachers from all over Ohio and Michigan. Brooks donates the proceeds from his talks back to the host district. In this case, those funds will be used for mental health resources and programming for staff and students. His talk and video clips all have an irreverent tone – and had teachers in the audience cheering in agreement. Brooks talked about his latest “products” such as a shirt stating, “My principal is great.” Once the principal has left the room, the teachers can then untuck the bottom of the shirt which reads, “at making dumb decisions.” For fellow teachers, there’s the pencil with “You’re awesome” stenciled in one side, and “at jammin’ the copier” on the other. And for parents, there’s the pencil stating, “Yes, your child is gifted.” The other side reads, “at eating erasers and losing his jacket.” No one is safe from Brooks’ ridicule – least of all himself. Most is in good humor – even when talking about state testing, which he detests. “I believe state testing is the most stupid thing we do,” Brooks said, to rousing cheers from…


Kids’ interest in learning gets a lift at air show, STEM in the Park

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Saturday was a day for kids’ dreams to take flight. For the first time the STEM in the Park and the Wood County Air Show teamed up in their offerings, giving families a double dose of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and yes, some arts and sports, activities. The result as Saturday’s Take Flight with STEM. Yolanda Robles-Wicks said in past years she’s attended the air show at the Wood County Regional Airport with her children. They see airplanes in the air, and the show gives them a chance to get inside the cockpit and see them close up. “It expands their horizons and shows there’s endless possibilities of what can be created,” she said. This year her children were again on hand, but Robles-Wicks was working. She’s  staff member at the project-based earning school iLEAD in the Holland. This is the public tuition-free charter school’s third year in Ohio, and first year at the air show.. The air fair fits right into what the academy teaches, said Monique Myers, the outreach coordinator. Students learn by doing. The academy was offering a hands-on activity at the air show. Kids got to build construction paper helicopters that had working LED lights in them. Robles-Wicks, a 2009 graduate of BGSU, said the project was selected because it was a change from the usual paper airplane. Over at the Perry Field House, activity spilled out on the lawn. More than 110 different stations were offered. Kara and Lucas Eisenhauer traveled to STEM in the Park from Fremont with their four children, ages 3 to 10. They’d spent almost three hours there and as the event was wrapping up regretted not getting there earlier. They were happy to learn that the air show was still going to be open for a while. Kara Eisenhauer said she was impressed by all the activities that were offered. Every station had something for children of different ages. “Each station seemed to engage everyone,” she said. “This is the most important way to teach kids. Give them a fun, hands-on activity.” She feels so strongly about this kind of learning that she quit her job as a teacher to stay at home to use these methods to teach her own children. Though college choices are still in the future for her family, Kara Eisenhauer said certainly BGSU would be considered “if this is what they’re teaching.”


Sleek Academy won’t have to teach to state tests

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Erica Sleek believes that kids can learn far more by doing. The proof of that is in their enthusiasm, their inquisitiveness, and their creations – not the scores on some state-ordered testing. So Sleek, who has operated All About the Kids learning center for 13 years in Bowling Green, is expanding to offer preschool through high school education at the new Sleek Academy. The academy will practice the same theory Sleek has been using for years – project-based learning. When they are learning about space, they go to the BGSU planetarium. When they are learning about plants, they go to Klotz Greenhouse. When they are learning about produce, they go to an orchard, pick apples and cook up applesauce. “It’s getting them to figure things out themselves,” Sleek said. For example, the older students are in the process of researching how to build a walipini – an underground greenhouse. All About the Kids has had a garden over the years, but a walipini would allow for year-round fruit and vegetable production. The produce would be eaten by students, and the extras would be given to local food pantries, Sleek said. The students are involved in every step of the process. They researched how the garden is built. They wrote letters for seed donations. They are creating a kickstarter video. They are applying for the necessary city permit. And they even researched child labor laws. “They are pretty deep thinkers,” said Kris Westmark, assistant principal. Sleek Academy focuses on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. But it takes those lessons a step further, Sleek said. “Part of STEAM is giving back to the community,” she said. “We want our students to know their community.” Recently, some of the older students did just that when they visited the Cocoon shelter for people affected by domestic violence. They learned about the services offered. “I was struggling to not cry,” Alexandra, a student, said. The students asked how they could help – and were told the Cocoon residents could use a picnic table for outside. “They had no chairs to sit on outside,” Sara said. “We started researching about abuse in general and how to build a table,” Duncan said. The students got some repurposed wood, and went to work. Isobel described how they used hammers, screwdrivers, pliers and crowbars. Once constructed, they painted the picnic table and signed their names underneath. Then they delivered the table to the Cocoon. “I just felt good about myself for making something…


Grandparents find support raising their grandchildren

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The seven strangers sat around the table, not sure where to start. They had at least one common bond – they were all grandparents who are now raising their grandchildren. The reasons varied. Some parents relinquished the rights to their children because of addictions to drugs or alcohol. But regardless of the reasons, the grandparents – who thought their days of daily parenting were done – were now raising another generation of their family. Last week was the first of monthly support group meetings being held for “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren,” at the Wood County Educational Service Center. Most of the grandparents started their stories by apologizing for feeling lost or complaining about their unexpected return to parenting. Felicia Otte, a school and community based prevention specialist liaison with the educational service center, told the grandparents to stop apologizing. “You have every right to feel that way,” Otte told them. That opened the floodgates, relieving the grandparents from guilt, and allowing them to speak freely about their struggles with those who knew exactly what they were talking about. (Because none of them wanted their grandchildren to be embarrassed, they asked that their names not be used.) One grandma talked about raising four grandchildren. One has attention deficit problems, and the specialists haven’t found the right medications to work for him yet. “I get a lot of phone calls from school,” she said. Another woman has found herself in the “sandwich” generation. At the same time she is raising three grandchildren, she is also struggling with the fact that her own mother is slipping and needs to be placed in assisted living. Then was the woman who has raised her teenage grandson since he was a toddler. She was able to offer words of encouragement and support to those just starting the journey. The only grandfather of the group just recently had two grandchildren move in with him per a court order. “It could be till next week or it could be forever,” he said. Another grandma told of taking in her two grandchildren off and on for years. It was just over two years ago that she realized the children were often home alone and taking care of themselves – so she stepped in. Her story got even more complicated, with her daughter overdosing and dying about 18 months ago, her grandson starting to wet the bed, and her not having time to properly grieve her daughter’s death. “I’m beyond my breaking point,” she said. The last to…