Education

Horizon Youth Theatre delivers another winning show with “The Great Cross Country Race”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In “The Great Cross Country Race,” Horizon Youth Theatre again let animals talk and deliver very human lessons. Last spring, “Honk!” was a lesson in humility. This fall’s production for older troupe members is a lesson in perseverance and impulse control. And it’s clear the cast and crew, 28 in all from 13 different schools, have learned their lessons well about how to work together to entertain an audience. Alan Broadhurst’s elaboration on the Aesop’s Fable “The Tortoise and the Hare,” directed by Cassie Greenlee, is on stage at the Otsego High School auditorium Saturday, Oct. 8, at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5. Now there’s really not much to the original tale, a skeleton of a story with a moral tacked on to the end: slow and steady wins the race. The only characters are the plodding tortoise and the over-confident hare. In “The Great Cross Country Race,” the tortoise, Ms. Sloe (Sophi Hachtel) gets a back story as an imported pet from a nearby household who wanders into the woodlands. This strange creature baffles the woodland animals who can’t tell even if it’s alive, or just a rock. They’re too busy arranging for their animal sports games. None of which are competitive because they are so tailored – like grass eating – to the qualities of particular animals. In the course of this we meet a variety of animals: the bunny, Ms. Warren (Amanda Cloeter); the hedgehog, Mr. Spiney (Grace Holbrook); the rat, Mr. Paddle (Isaac Douglass); the squirrel, Mr. Brush (Maddox Brosius); and the crow, Mrs. Dark (Calista Wilkins). Only the cross country race offers any competition. But the fox, who is the only creature who would have a chance against the conceited hare Ms. Fleet (Scarlet Frishman), has stepped aside because of an injury. This is most troubling to Mr. Sett (JJ Poiry) who is organizing the games. Then Ms. Sloe offers to compete,…


Scruci explains school delay and closing decisions

(Submitted by BG Superintendent Francis Scruci) Allow me to explain the process that our district follows when making decisions on delays and closings.  At approximately 4:15 a.m. each morning we get out of bed and get in our vehicles to drive the district. Our first bus departs from the bus garage at approximately 5:50 a.m. We do everything in our power to make the decision by 5:30 at the latest. I pull over and send info out on Twitter(@francis_scruci) and Facebook.  When I get back home then I make the all call while submitting the delay or closing information with the TV stations.  I suggest if you want the earliest notification then follow me on Twitter or Facebook. A reminder that our district is the 98th largest district in the State in terms of square miles (118).  My transportation director and I drive the district and divide the area in terms of northern and southern. He and I are in constant communication throughout the early morning drive to determine the safety of putting buses on the road. Because of the size of the district, there could be a different weather condition in one area and in another area it could be totally opposite.  For instance, this morning in the southern part of the district it was clear with just small patches of fog, while in the northern part of the district there was dense fog.  Fog is difficult to predict as it can appear instantly within minutes. This is one of the most difficult decisions that a superintendent makes each day as safety is the priority for our buses, drivers, students, student drivers, and staff.  We try to give as much notice to prevent any inconvenience to families but there are times where that becomes impossible and we apologize for the stress it may cause. We appreciate your support and understanding on these types of days and I can assure you that we take the decision extremely serious as educating…


‘Bobcat Basics’ to supply students with toiletries, school items

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Like many teachers, Erica Slough often sees students in her classroom who struggle with daily issues that most Bowling Green students don’t have to worry about. They don’t have the basic toiletries, clothing or school supplies they need. So Slough, a high school English teacher, came up with the Bobcat Basics program to provide supplies to students in need. “They do a good job of pretending to be OK. They don’t want to talk about it. But we see kids who are in need and we don’t have anywhere to turn to,” Slough said. “This is a much needed program.” It might be that their families can’t afford to keep supplies of shampoo, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, or notebooks. It may be the family has suffered a job loss, or a disaster such as a fire, or has a more ongoing crisis. “If they don’t have their basic needs met, how are they going to focus on academics?” Slough said. “They are thinking about survival. We want to help them out the best we can.” The plan is to supply the Bobcat Basics program by asking parents to donate items and by working with student organizations to collect donations from businesses. Student groups will also be in charge of keeping track of the inventory and making sure the program is stocked. “It’s set up for students to help students,” Slough said. But that is as far as the students and community will be involved, since the program must be discreet so students in need feel comfortable picking up items. “This is for the teenagers,” Slough said. Students will be approached by their guidance counselors, referred by their teachers, or questioned if they receive reduced cost lunches. “We do have a significant amount on that list,” she said. They will be called down to the Bobcat Basics room during study hall. “People get called down for different reasons all the time,” Slough said….


BGSU sees slip in student retention rate

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   BGSU’s student retention rate slipped this fall, sending officials scrambling to find ways to help students stay at school. It’s not enough for Bowling Green State University to attract new students to come to school. The university has to keep them coming back for more – until they graduate. That’s because universities in Ohio no longer get state funding per student headcounts. Now they get paid if students return to school each year and earn diplomas. So the recent dip in returning students at BGSU was concerning Friday to the BGSU Board of Trustees. Last fall, the retention rate was 77.5 percent. This fall, the rate of returning students had dropped to 75.8 percent – creating a bigger gap between reality and the retention goal of 80 percent. “Obviously, we’re not satisfied,” said BGSU Provost Rodney Rogers. “The goal is 80 percent, so we will continue to work on that.” Retention rates dropped for on-campus students (78.4 to 76.5 percent) and for commuter students (67.9 to 64.7 percent.) Meanwhile, several other universities in Ohio were meeting their goals of 80 percent or higher retention rates, Rogers said. Rates at Ohio University, Ohio State University, Miami University and Kent State were all higher than BGSU, while the University of Toledo’s rate was lower. But Rogers assured that BGSU could achieve the higher rate. “That 80 percent is a very appropriate goal for us,” he said. BGSU Trustees President David Levey questioned how the university would meet the goal. “Everybody’s focused on retention and our numbers are slipping,” he said. “What are we going to do this year?” However, Trustee Dan Keller cautioned the board to not over-react to one slip in the retention rate. If the one-year blip turns into a trend, then it will be time to worry, he said. Rogers and Tom Gibson, vice president of student affairs and vice provost, explained that several efforts are already underway to improve the…


High school robotics teams to compete at BGSU Oct. 8

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Teams of students from 17 area high schools and middle schools will showcase their talents during the fourth annual Falcon BEST Robotics competition Oct. 8 at Bowling Green State University. Area schools with teams competing this year are: Anthony Wayne High School, Bowling Green High School, Cardinal Stritch Catholic High School, EHOVE Career Center, Hamilton Southeastern High School, Maumee Valley Country Day School, McComb High School, Millstream Career Center, Patrick Henry High School, Paulding High School, Perrysburg High School, Port Clinton High School, Sandusky Central Catholic School, St. Francis de Sales School, St. Ursula Academy, Sylvania Southview High School, and Vanguard Technology Center. Game Day kicks off in the Stroh Center at 9:30 a.m. with opening ceremonies, which will include a welcome and parade of robots. The competition will follow at 10 a.m. as the teams and their robots master Bet the Farm 2016, a competition of skill and strategy. The event will conclude with awards at approximately 3:15 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend Game Day to support the teams and their robots as they compete; all events are free. Students are coached by dedicated and enthusiastic teachers and team mentors, some of which come from the professional tech community. Each team is provided with an identical kit of parts and equipment, and then spends a month and a half designing, building and testing a remote-controlled robot that the team expects to outperform those created by its competition. The BEST Award is presented to the top three teams that exemplify the concept of BEST – Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology. Criteria include creativity, teamwork, sportsmanship, diversity of participation, application of the engineering design process, ethics, positive attitude/enthusiasm and school/community involvement. Awards are also presented to the top three robotics game teams, and to the top teams that compete in oral presentations, educational displays, project engineering notebook and spirit/sportsmanship. New award categories for this year include Most Photogenic Machine, Best Web Page…


Kids with special needs benefit from challenge of sports through Rally Cap

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The turf room in Field House at Bowling Green State University is full of voices on Sunday afternoon. Lower voices of parents murmur from the bleachers along the wall near the door. Spread across the green before them are the encouraging, sometimes cheering, voices of college students. Rising above it all are the high, happy chatter of children at play. All this is punctuated the sounds of balls bouncing and being kicked. Welcome to a new season of Rally Cap Sports. The program, now in its fourth year, offers individual sports experiences in a non-competitive environment to children with a range of special needs, said Melissa Wilson, a BGSU senior who directs the program. Sunday’s kickoff marked the start of the program’s fourth year on campus. A few dozen kids are spread out around the turf room, each working with two or three college students. This kickoff, Wilson said, serves as an introduction for new participants, and a welcome back for participants from previous years. After Sunday there will be a basketball league this fall as well as a couple dances. For information contact: www.rcsbgsu.org. The program serves children with a wide range of needs, she said. Some are non-verbal, while others have mild learning disabilities. About 70 have participated to date. For all of them, sports in another setting is not a possibility. Jodi Clifford said her children are unable to play sports either at school or in private programs because of a variety of disabilities including bilateral coordination issues. “But coming here they enjoy it. They look forward to it. They don’t feel left out. They feel part of the team.” Cicely Watkins said her sons “tried traditional sports and they were very discouraged. They hated sports.” One has cerebral palsy and all have sensory processing issues. Now they will gladly talk about all the sports they play at Rally Cap, and how good they are at them. Shelley Davis said her…


Donation page set up for Buddy Benches

A First Giving donation page has been set up for the Buddy Benches program at Bowling Green schools. The benches are to help children without playmates on school playgrounds to find other children to play with at recess. The link to the First Giving site to make donations online is  https://www.firstgiving.com/NWOAS/buddybench Those donors who prefer to write checks should make them payable to NWO Apraxia Support. They can be mailed or dropped off to Kenwood Elementary.


STEM in the Park makes learning loud, messy & fun

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Learning can be pretty loud and messy. Just ask the kids covered in foam bubbles. Or the kids making concrete. Or the ones building rockets. For the seventh year in a row, a whole lot of learning masqueraded as fun at STEM in the Park at Bowling Green State University on Saturday. “We want to make learning fun and we want to spark interest in the STEM fields” of science, technology, engineering and math, said Jenna Pollock, coordinator of the event organized by the Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education. An estimated 5,000 grade school kids, their parents and volunteers showed up to play. All the events were hands-on, with the messier ones relegated to the outside. There was a “Cootie Camp,” where kids could enter a black tent to get a peek at the germs covering them. There was a giant foam machine shooting foamy bubbles all over kids. There was a sloth and a vulture from the Toledo Zoo. And yes, before you ask, this is education – just in a sneaky form. “We do make it fun,” Pollock said. “They are learning without thinking they are learning.” One outside tent was devoted completely to water issues. Children – and in some cases, their inquisitive parents – got to use a remotely operated vehicle, similar to those used by oceanographers to study shipwrecks and coral reefs that are too deep for divers to venture. “They go places man cannot,” explained Matt Debelak, of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Another display showed kids about erosion in watersheds. Powdered hot chocolate represented the dirt, powdered Kool-Aid represented pesticides. As the young scientists sprayed water onto the “terrain,” they could see how rain sends soil and pesticides into waterways. At a nearby display, dirt and roots were turned into a lesson on how plants can hang onto nutrients and water. “They are really into shaking the jars of dirt,” said Jessica Wilbarger,…


BG School District discusses student drug testing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Schools has been one of the hold-outs in the county for student drug testing – but that may be ending. The board of education heard a presentation Tuesday evening from Kyle Prueter, of Great Lakes Biomedical, which handles drug testing in about 120 schools in Ohio. “We have a concern just like most schools,” Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said, noting that Eastwood is the only other district in Wood County that doesn’t already do random drug tests. Scruci said he hopes to have a “community conversation” about a drug testing program, possibly next month. He stressed that the purpose of the testing would be to help, not punish students. “It is not a gotcha program,” he said. “We are not in the business to kick kids out of school.” Prueter said his business, Great Lakes Biomedical, has the same philosophy. The purpose is prevention. “It’s all about giving kids one more reason to say ‘no,’” when other kids pressure them to use drugs or alcohol, he said. Random drug testing of students averages 85 percent support from parents, and more than 50 percent support from students. “The kids are tired of it also,” he said. Testing is done with kids in extra-curriculars because attending school is a right, but participating in athletics or other activities is a privilege. It is a myth, Prueter said, that drug testing turns kids away from sports and other extra-curriculars. “There is no decrease in participation,” he said, noting that his business has been doing drug testing for 20 years. In the past, some schools treated positive drug testing results with “zero tolerance,” Prueter said. But most schools now realize it does no good to kick kids out of school for doing drugs. Though it will be up to the school board to set the district’s policy, Prueter said schools often give students two options if they test positive for drugs or alcohol:…


Students win big in Constitution ‘Jeopardy’ game

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s not every day that kids get to shout in a library, or that a state legislator gets to pretend to be Alex Trebek. Just on U.S. Constitution Day, or in this case, the closest school day to the anniversary of Sept. 17, 1787, when the document was signed in Philadelphia. The Constitution Jeopardy contestants were excited, but well behaved fifth graders from Conneaut Elementary School. The game show host was State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, whose previous position as a history teacher helped prepare him for Friday’s role. The setting was the Wood County District Public Library, in the same room that will be used in less than two months for local adults to elect their public servants. “This room makes me nervous, because this is where I get hired or fired,” Gardner said to the students. He asked the children if they could name his boss. The names started flying. The president? No. The vice president? No. The governor? “Some people think so, but he knows he’s not. I’ve told him that before,” Gardner said. After several other wrong answers, Gardner revealed the answer. “You are my boss. I’m required to listen to you.” The fifth graders may not have been prepared for that question, but once the Constitution Jeopardy game began, they could not be stumped. The categories consisted of topics like the founding fathers, checks and balances, branches of the government, the creating the Constitution. The students had no trouble naming the law-making branch of government; the third president, who was not at the signing of the Constitution; and the location of the Constitutional Conference. A history teacher at heart, Gardner could not resist throwing out a few of his own questions, asking the number of congressional and senate members. The answers may not have always been exactly what he had in mind. When asked about other items associated with Philadelphia, children named cheese steak and Hershey…


BG Schools not satisfied with state report card

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   None of Wood County’s school districts brought home grades worth posting on the refrigerator in the latest round of state testing. But one difference is that while other districts were scrambling to explain their grades when they were released Friday, Bowling Green had already prepared its residents for the bad news. When Bowling Green City School District got word of the less than stellar grades in July, Superintendent Francis Scruci decided to rip off the bandaid. The district announced early the scores wouldn’t get them on any honor roll. The district scored C on overall achievement and post high school readiness; A in annual progress and graduation rates; and F in literacy gains in K-3 and closing the achievement gap. The scores were lower than customary across the state, possibly because of the new testing system. In the area of overall achievement, scores for other Wood County school districts were: B for Perrysburg; C for Eastwood; and D for Elmwood, Lake, North Baltimore, Northwood, Otsego and Rossford. On Friday, Scruci repeated his distrust in the state testing being an accurate measure of student achievement and teacher performance. “We’re going to own what we got,” he said of the grades. But he cautioned that a one-day assessment is not fair to schools or students. “It cannot be confused with the good things going on in our district. It’s not a true assessment of what kids know and how teachers are doing.” Scruci pointed out that 85 percent of the school districts in the state are dealing with lower than desirable grades. “So is it a school problem, or is it a testing problem?” “It would be wrong to judge us based on this report card. Most superintendents would say it’s a flawed system,” he said. “A lot of school districts are in the same boat. We’re not in this boat rowing alone.” Scruci also questioned the calculations used by the state to grade…


‘Buddy Benches’ to make BG playgrounds more friendly for lonely kids

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   School recess is supposed to be a fun break from the confines of the classroom for elementary students. But for some kids, the playground is a lonely place. It was like that for Aleksander Ostrowski, a third grader at Kenwood Elementary School in Bowling Green. “Aleks came to me and said he had no one to play with and just walked around” during recess, said his dad Chris Ostrowski. So the Ostrowski family started thinking about how to make the school playground a friendlier place for kids. They had heard about Buddy Benches before, and started doing some research. The bench idea got started in the U.S. by a 10-year-old boy named Christian Bucks who was apprehensive about moving to Germany for his dad’s job. One of the schools there had a buddy bench – a place where a child could sit if he had no one to play with, and other kids would take it as a signal to ask him to play. Christian ended up not moving to Germany, but he did start spreading the Buddy Bench concept across the U.S. And soon, each elementary in Bowling Green may have its own Buddy Bench. “I want all the elementaries to do it,” Chris Ostrowski said, since every school undoubtedly has children facing the awkward problem of having no one to play with during recess. The benches are intended to give kids a safe, nonjudgmental place to retreat, and to encourage other kids to reach out to them. “It really teaches kids the importance of social interaction – the inclusion, the tolerance,” Ostrowski said. The idea for the benches has actually been brewing a while at Kenwood Elementary. Physical education teacher Jeremy Koehler and Jennifer Ostrowski, Aleks’ mom and a teacher at the school, had been discussing the possibility of getting a bench for about four years. The problem of children feeling left out and alone on the playground is nothing…


BGSU setting sights on rising in U.S. News college rankings

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University continues to hover just above the 100 mark for the Top Public National Universities by U.S. News and World Report. That’s down a bit from last year, when BGSU was 101 in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges”, and lower on the list than President Mary Ellen Mazey would like to be. “There’s always room for improvement,” she said. Still she said she was pleased. The ranking puts BGSU in the top tier of national public universities, along with three of its sister Ohio institutions – Miami, Ohio University and Kent State. BGSU placed 194th on the overall National University list. The top 20 schools there are all private institutions, Mazey said, with large endowments. “We do compete with them,” she said. She feels BGSU holds its own, probably because of cost. The university was ranked 184th in the Best Undergraduate Business Programs category. Some do question the value of the rankings. “There’s a debate about it,” Mazey said. “I know some of my predecessors here didn’t put as much emphasis on it. But our parents and students look at these rankings, so therefore I think it’s important.” BGSU has been in the 90s and lower 100s for a number of years. Mazey said she was impressed with BGSU’s 92nd ranking when she arrived in 2011. “If you place an emphasis, you can move,” she said. “But then again, everyone’s trying to do that. It’s a very competitive environment. We’re going to have a greater emphasis on it this year.” The rankings are based on perceptions of administrators at other top universities, and high school guidance counselors. But looming larger are other factors. Most of those the university has already been working on. Student graduation rates, either in four or six years, count for 20 percent of the score. Attracting top quality students also is an important factor and has been an emphasis in recruiting. This fall the university…


BGSU hosting STEM in the park, Sept. 24

From BGSU MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS STEM in the Park, a free family day of hands-on fun at Bowling Green State University, will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Perry Field House, with plenty of free parking available. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the Park will feature interactive displays and activities created by community partners, local businesses and area universities to engage children of all ages in the STEM fields. More than 140 unique hands-on STEM activity stations will be offered for individuals and families to enjoy. This event allows participants to make ice cream, dabble in robotics, launch pop rockets, pet lizards and much more. Everyone who attends the event will receive an event map, take home free STEM materials and activity ideas, and enjoy a complimentary catered lunch. Last year’s event drew more than 4,300 visitors from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. Back by popular demand is the “Science of Sports” zone, which displays activity stations that examine how fast participants can run, how high participants can jump, and how far participants can throw a ball. New this year will be a golf simulator where participants can take part in the longest drive contest. A “Roots to STEM Pre K-2” zone also returns this year, which features activities that cater specifically to younger children. The STEM Stage will once again feature super-sized demonstrations from Imagination Station and the Soar & Explore Bird Show presented by the Toledo Zoo. New activities for 2016 include the H2O Zone, where visitors can explore the science behind all of water’s amazing uses; the Food Science Zone for budding food technologists; and the Digital Arts Animation Station for getting immersed in the world of virtual reality. Activity Station hosts include BGSU’s Marine Lab and Herpetarium, Verizon, Toledo Botanical Garden, Challenger Learning Center of Lake Erie West, Nature’s Nursery, Ohio Northern University Engineering, Wood County Hospital, plus more than 80 other institutions and organizations. STEM in the…


Black Swamp Arts Festival Update: Closing time

By BG INDEPENDENT NEWS (This is  the last of our blog posts about the Black Swamp Arts Festival. See you next year.) Every year I get that wistful feeling when Main Street in downtown Bowling Green reverts to its workaday self after the two and a half days of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. It’s like seeing the first discarded Christmas tree on the curb. The festival came off well. All those weather worries proved for naught. Saturday had intermittent showers, and late in the afternoon there were sudden hard gusts of wind, that had artists and helpers scurrying to better secure their booths. But that passed. If they gave a best of show honors for weather, Sunday would certainly be a top contender. One thing artists have consistently noted is that when it rains at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, the crowds seek cover in shops and booths and then return as soon as the rain stops. They don’t just go away. The result was Saturday wasn’t a bad day for art sales, and Sunday was far better. Ceramicist Jan Bostwick said she and her partner were “clicking our heels” over the amount of pottery she moved, and fabric artist Becca Levenson gleefully compressed her remaining stock into less than two feet of rack space. Now they’ll be back to work, producing more merchandise for their next fairs. Others didn’t fare as well. Jeweler Amy Beeler said hers were all right. That’s been true the entire season. She’d been told by veteran exhibitors that sales always get slow during presidential election years, especially when there’s no incumbent in the race. Most artists said their sales were good. Amy Craft Ahrens, co-chair of the concessions committee, said that sales in the beer garden were up dramatically on Friday, and just a little off on Saturday night. Speaking just as the festival was closing down, she said she was optimistic about Sunday given the length of the lines. Certainly the crowds…