Education learns new moves in active learning classrooms

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News It’s not even 8 o’clock yet and Susan Kleine’s morning Business 1100 class is already on a roll. As students come in, they gather Sharpie markers, Post-It Notes, tape and colored pipe cleaners from a table at the front. Then Kleine directs them to get into groups of four. The students roll their chairs, some without even getting up, around small tables, also on wheels. The assignment is to design the ideal wallet. Now students face off to question each other about their wallets, or the equivalent, how they use them and what their drawbacks and advantages are. The students, meeting on the second floor of the Education Building, are involved, though they may not be aware of it, in a movement to redesign the university classroom. Bowling Green State University is engaged in an ongoing effort to improve its classrooms. The project is part capital renovation, and part ongoing experiment. These new active learning classrooms have their share of technology, yet the emphasis is on the human touch. They are reshaping teaching on campus. “In traditonal sense, we think of the classrooms as being neat rows of students and the teacher in front of those rows spouting out information,” said Mary-Jon Ludy, who teaches nutrition classes. “If I think about that happening in classrooms today, if they’re not engaged, they either fall asleep or they do something else.” Instead of fighting those tendencies, the new active learning classrooms put them to use. Many of the classrooms have whiteboards on all walls, so students can get up work out problems and brainstorm ideas. Then they take out their own personal technology and take photos for later use and sharing. John Fisher, vice provost for academic affairs, said the process of upgrading the classrooms began about three years ago with an inventory of learning spaces on campus, and a calculation of how many would be needed. This comes as the university is in the midst of a renovation boom, retrofitting classic buildings for the demands…

Smith reaches for the stars at planetarium

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the stars filled the domed sky and the cardboard rocket took off into space, one of the students quietly slid over to sit in her teacher’s lap. “This was so real, one little girl thought the dome took off,” teacher Nancy Frankart said after the planetarium show was over and the lights came on. “She thought we were traveling to space.” That is music to Dale Smith’s ears. Smith has been director at the Bowling Green State University Planetarium since it opened in 1983. “I came with it. That makes me the best director they’ve ever had and the worst director they’ve ever had,” he said, smiling. Smith started focusing on the stars as a child in upstate New York. “In third grade, a friend lent me a book about planets, and I was hooked,” he said. “A lot of astronomers have similar stories. Something grabbed ahold of us.” For some, like Smith, it’s not enough to look skyward themselves. They want others to enjoy the view as well. “Something inspired us and we want to share our love of the universe with audiences.” And that’s exactly what Smith does as he turns off the lights, asks the children to put on their imaginary seatbelts, lean back in the planetarium chairs and travel through space. Last week, he took first through third graders from St. Wendelin Catholic School in Fostoria on a ride in the “Secret of the Cardboard Rocket.” This particular show tells of siblings who build a spaceship out of cardboard and spend the night in it in their backyard. The rocket blasts off in the night, taking the pair to every planet in this solar system. The students’ eyes were glued to the dome ceiling for the 40-minute trip to Pluto and back. The shows get routine for Smith, but the children’s questions after the show continue to thrill him. “Once the first one asks, the ice is broken,” Smith said. And the flood of questions began. “You…

Kenwood open Friday…with stipulations

Dear parents and guardians, We have received the most important test results and I am happy to report that there are no harmful chemicals in the water.  We however are waiting for one test which will verify that there is no bacteria in the water and we are expecting that mid-day tomorrow.  Therefore, Kenwood Elementary WILL BE OPEN for students tomorrow,Friday, April 8, 2016 with a few stipulations.  Water bottles will be made available to all students throughout the day and hand sanitizer will be provided in all restrooms until we have received the final result.  Essentially the building is following a boil alert protocol like we follow in our homes.  As I stated yesterday, the problem was simply Kenwood is an older building with older pipes that was closed for 10 days (spring break) resulting in discolored water.  We have worked with the City, the EPA, and the water testing company the past two days and are confident to allow students to come back to school.  Therefore we will have a normal day of school beginning with breakfast through dismissal.  Again, we will always err on the side of caution for the safety of our students.  Thanks for your continued support and understanding through these past two days. Bobcat Proud, Superintendent Francis Scruci

Kenwood closed again Thursday; water test results not complete

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Kenwood Elementary School will be closed again Thursday since complete test results are not back on water at the school. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci closed the school on Wednesday due to discolored water at a drinking fountain in the school. Initially it was believed the greenish colored water was due to a back flow valve failure. However, Scruci said this evening that the water problem appears to more likely be the result of the older pipes in the building going unused over spring break. The pipes went unused for 10 days during break. After being run, the water was clear this morning, Scruci said. Tests conducted this morning showed the water being fine but the full scale contaminant test results will not be available until after noon on Thursday.  Therefore, Kenwood Elementary will be closed again Thursday. All other schools in the district will be open. “Our first responsibility is to keep our students safe,” Scruci wrote in an email to parents.  “I am not willing to take any unnecessary risks and want to err on the side of caution.” Water samples were taken to a testing site in Toledo from Kenwood school and other schools in the district for baseline data. Initially the testing facility said the results would be complete in eight to 10 days, but Scruci said it was made clear that was unacceptable. “We cannot wait eight to 10 days,” he said. The district has one more calamity day left due to few snow days this past winter, but Scruci would really like the students back at their desks. “We certainly want to get them back, they start testing next week,” he said. The district received no reports of children sickened from the water earlier this week. “I think that it’s fine, but until I’m 100 percent certain that’s the case, and there’s nothing in there that will harm the kids,” school will remain closed, Scruci said.

Kenwood Elementary closed Wednesday due to discolored water

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Discolored water in a drinking fountain at Kenwood Elementary School has resulted in the school being closed Wednesday. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said this afternoon that the water fountains were all shut off after greenish colored water was noticed. City utility workers were called, tested the water, and found no bacteria in it, Scruci said. As a precautionary measure, a water testing company was called, but was unable to get to the school today. “We have the company coming tomorrow to ensure that the water is without question safe,” Scruci said. Boiler technicians and plumbers are also working on the issue to identify and correct the original cause for the discoloration, he added. Because the water was clear on Monday, it is believed the problem was caused by a boiler backflow valve malfunction. “We believe that we know the cause of the problem but until we are 100 percent certain that the water in the building is safe, we cannot put students and staff at potential risk,” Scruci wrote in an email to parents. Scruci is hopeful the school will be open again on Thursday. But that will only take place if he can be assured the water is safe for students and staff to drink, he said. “If they can’t guarantee me tomorrow that the water is safe, I will cancel school again,” Scruci said. Since the school district did not use all its snow calamity days during the mild winter, the elementary has some “wiggle room,” he said.  

Little girl makes waves saving rare dolphins

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Standing on a step stool to reach the podium, the 9-year-old told how she has taken on a nation’s prime minister and a local corporation to try to save dolphins on the other side of the globe. Calista Wilkins, a fourth grader at Otsego, has been working two years to preserve Maui dolphins, the smallest of its species, that live off the coast of New Zealand. On Thursday, Calista shared her story with the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. The serious little girl with long blond hair is not intimidated by leaders whose words praise the preservation of the dolphins, but whose actions do the opposite. Her efforts have earned her a grant from Jane Goodall’s organization to continue her dolphin-saving work. Calista was also at ease speaking to the group of Kiwanians, trying to engage them in the presentation. She showed slides of New Zealand, where the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was filmed, and asked if anyone was familiar with the small statured characters called hobbits. “The Maui dolphins are sort of like that,” she said. Though Calista has never been to New Zealand, and has never seen the Maui dolphins, she confidently explained their plight. The rare dolphins number only about 50, and risk becoming extinct by 2030 if nothing changes to reverse their fate. The black, white and gray dolphins have rounded noses, dorsal fins shaped like Mickey Mouse ears, and like to swim in groups close to the shores of the northern portion of New Zealand. Calista showed photographs of the small dolphins, including one called “Scratchy,” named so because of the scars left on his body by fishing nets. Scratchy was lucky, since the fishing nets are responsible for killing many of the Maui dolphins. Since the dolphins live close to the shore, the New Zealand government has declared a safe green zone lining the coast. However, many continue to fish in the protected areas, and the government does nothing to stop them, Calista said. The Maui…

Gloria Gajewicz honored for home grown science teaching skills

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green teacher Gloria Gajewicz was inspired through her career by her own teachers, and further by her mother’s pursuit of education. So it is fitting that she should receive an award named for the late Neil Pohlmann, an educator and BGSU professor who left his mark on science education. Earlier this month Gajewicz won the first Neil Pohlman Award given by Bowling Green State University at the spring conference of the Northwest Ohio School Boards Association meeting. Patrick Pauken, director of the School of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy, said the award “is given in recognition of valuable contribution to Educational Administration and Leadership Studies at BGSU.” Gajewicz is working on her doctorate in the program. The award carries a scholarship. Pauken wrote: “The faculty selected Gloria for the award because of her endless dedication to teaching, learning, and leading in our schools. She is an excellent graduate student, as well, inspiring her classmates with her professional stories of student success. Our classrooms and schools are special places, indeed, with teachers and leaders like Gloria Gajewicz.” Gajewicz has taught science for 20 years, the last 16 at her alma mater, Bowling Green High School where she teaches biology and honors physical science. Finishing her second semester of what she expects will be a four-year process, Gajewicz’s goal is to become a curriculum specialist with her particular interest in science. She said she was inspired to pursue science by the many great science teachers she had in the Bowling Green system. That included Roger Mazzarella, “the wizard of Mazz,” in seventh grade and Bob Rex in eighth. In high school she had Bev Anthony for chemistry and Beth Snook for biology. “I had awesome science teachers all the way through,” she said. And she was pleased that when she started teaching in Bowling Green, Anthony was still on staff so she had “one of my inspirational teachers as a colleague.” “They definitely inspired me to do something in science,” she said. Her inspiration to go into…

BGSU orchestra takes students on tour of ‘The Planets’

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Students from local schools filled Kobacker Hall on the Bowling Green State University campus Thursday morning. They’d been invited by conductor Emily Freeman Brown to go on a journey through Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” Given the number of people, a few coughs were inevitable as Brown and the orchestra took them on a musical tour of the solar system and along the way introduced them to the ancient deities who lent their names to the planets. Then came the last movement of the piece, Neptune, the god of mystery. “We’ll have some secret visitors,” Brown told the audience before the movement began. “Listen carefully.” And as the piece neared its conclusion, high, soft voices were softly heard offstage, ghostly, wafting over the orchestra. By the end, only the voices were heard. No violins. No harps. No brass, percussion nor woodwinds. No coughs. Hundreds of children silent as the music faded away. “That response is proof that we’re doing something good,” the conductor said after the performance. Sharing music “is fundamental to human nature.” This was not the first time Brown has led the orchestra in a performance of “The Planets” for a young audience. She did it back in 1992. Those kids would be old enough to have children of their own. How the university has presented young people’s shows has changed over the years. Brown’s first endeavor in 1991 was a trimmed down version of Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” For a number of years, the College of Music presented Saturday morning programs modeled after Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. But attendance at those Saturday morning events had dwindled to the point there were more people on stage than in the audience. In 2014, the university offered a weekday matinee show of “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” the Christmas opera by Gian Carlo Menotti. Now with “The Planets,” the offerings come full circle. “I wanted to give them an experience that’s really different. Something they’d remember,” Brown said. She wants expose them to…

7 drug canines do sweep during lockdown at BGHS

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green High School went on lockdown Thursday morning as seven drug-sniffing dogs searched the school. At 8:15 a.m., teachers were instructed to put all student book bags in the hallway, according to Superintendent Francis Scruci. The canines then did a drug sweep of all the bags, the lockers, and all the vehicles in the parking lot. The drug sweep inside lasted about 90 minutes. The dogs “hit on” 20 lockers and 20 book bags, but no illegal substances were found. “Nothing was found internally in the school,” Scruci said. The dogs also “hit on” 15 cars in the parking lot, all belonging to students.  Those students were brought out to their vehicles, then school administration and law enforcement searched inside the cars. Marijuana was found in one car. All cars in the lot, including employees’ vehicles, were part of the sweep, the superintendent said. Scruci said no one at the high school knew about the drug sweep until 8 a.m.  – even the administration. The superintendent said the search was not the result of a reported problem, but because he believes it is a good way to promote smart choices for students. “I’ve always done it as a practice,” at the previous school districts where he served as superintendent, Scruci said. “We’re going to continue to try to educate kids on the dangers of drugs,” he said. “We want to make sure they are making the right decisions.” Bowling Green Police Major Justin White said the seven canine units at the school included BG’s dog, along with two dogs from Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, two from Fostoria Police Department, one from Wauseon Police Department and one from Carey Police Department.  

BG schools did not sanction gun raffle…club cancels fundraiser

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Student groups do all kinds of activities to raise funds – sell candy bars, wash cars, sit in dunking booths. But raffling off guns? Not in Bowling Green, says Superintendent Francis Scruci. Scruci sent out an email to district parents late Wednesday afternoon explaining that a raffle was being promoted by the Bowling Green Wrestling Club. The prize was two firearms, with one being an assault rifle, he said. As of Thursday afternoon, the raffle had been canceled. The superintendent explained he did not sanction the raffle and was not aware it was being conducted. He had been alerted by a parent earlier Wednesday. “The Bowling Green City Schools does not promote guns and is not affiliated with this type of raffle,” Scruci wrote in the email. “I can assure you that if the proper procedure had been followed the raffle would have been denied for distribution through the district.” The email continued to say the Bowling Green Wrestling Club is an outside organization raising funds for wrestlers from youth to university age and exists outside of school parameters. “It’s technically not affiliated with the school,” Scruci said when reached Wednesday evening. No flyers were sent out with students, but the high school wrestling coach did send out an email about the raffle to school staff, the superintendent said. “I knew nothing about it,” Scruci said. “They did not submit anything, nor did we distribute it.” But the superintendent decided to be proactive and send out a mass email to parents. “It has nothing to do with us, but I didn’t want parents to see it on Facebook” and think the school endorsed the raffle, he said. “It would have been rejected.” The raffling of firearms, especially an assault rifle just doesn’t make sense, Scruci said. “I and the Bowling Green City Schools are not promoting the raffle of guns as it directly opposes our zero tolerance policy for weapons,” he wrote to parents. On Thursday afternoon, Scruci said he wrestling club intended…

BGSU hears about taking the initiative to keep students engaged

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Vincent Tinto left the best news for the end of his keynote address Monday at Bowling Green State University’s Teaching and Learning Fair. “You don’t need new initiatives,” he told the luncheon crowd in the student union ballroom. “You have enough of them.” And they seem to be working. “I’m very impressed with the directions you’re taking.” Tinto, a professor emeritus from Syracuse University who is considered a leading scholar in how to keep students in college, prefaced this good news with a review of approaches to help students succeed. To anyone paying attention to curriculum developments on campus, much did seem familiar. Supporting students means engaging them in the classroom, giving them a sense of belonging, setting high expectations and then assessing what’s working, Tinto said. He reviewed strategies to do all this. For example, he said, “we hear again and again and again, that students do better in groups than they do on their own.” Tinto continued: “The thing that drives learning in the classroom is active engagement with others in the classroom…. That drives a sense of belonging in the classroom.” That learning can come in many flavors – collaborative, cooperative, problem-based or project-based. All, he said, use the student’s interest in making social connections in order to get them more involved in their learning. Those groups, though, must be structured by the teachers. Letting students select who they work with often leads to one person doing most of the work. The more students work together, the more they will study. “Active engagement with others predicts time on task,” he says. And time on task, studying, predicts academic success. Tinto also noted: “You have service learning to which I say ‘Amen!’ … We’re producing citizens not workers.” While institutions worry how they can retain students – in Ohio state funding depends on it – “students don’t want to retain. Students want to persist and complete even if it means having to transfer. The question you have to ask yourself is how do…

BG schools to hold monthly talks – on drug testing, charter schools and more

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s new school superintendent is not shy about communication – and not just Twitter and Facebook – but old-fashioned face to face time. Francis Scruci been hosting regular coffee klatches with citizens, but now he’s looking at narrowing the focus of the discussions and drawing more input. So once a month, Scruci plans to host public workshops. Each will focus on a specific topic, such as drug testing, delivery of instruction, school funding or the impact of charter schools. “I want open and honest dialogue,” he said. The superintendent has asked that all the school board members also attend the workshops. So the gatherings will be like a second meeting a month for the board, but one with more interaction with the public than is possible at regular board meetings. “The community, staff felt disconnected from our board and schools,” Scruci said. Anyone will be allowed to speak at the workshops and no decisions will be made during the meetings. “There will be a climate of collaboration,” he said. “It’s not adversarial.” Scruci presented the idea last week during the first such workshop, this one focusing on the future of school buildings in the district. “We want interaction with our community,” he told the audience. “We want dialogue.” “We have to have the entire village working together for the good of our schools,” Scruci said. The superintendent stressed that anyone wanting to talk to him need not wait until the monthly workshops. In addition to the coffee klatches, he said citizens are welcome to drop by his office at anytime to talk. “We all care about kids. We all care about the community,” he said.        

State testing survey raises questions

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With school districts across Ohio getting less than stellar grades on their recent state report cards, some further investigation has revealed some disturbing discrepancies, according to Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci. Scruci explained at Tuesday’s school board meeting that a survey about the state tests was conducted with all the district superintendents in Ohio. The superintendents were asked one question – if their district tests were conducted online, on paper, or a combination. A total 450 superintendents responded. Of those, 250 had online tests, with 175 getting an F for the value-added overall grade, and just 47 getting an A. Just 95 districts gave all-paper tests, with 85 of those getting an A. “There is some suspicion in the state that the tests were not equal,” Scruci said. Due to the rash of low scores, there is a possibility of legislative action which would make the most recent scores invalid. However, Scruci said he wasn’t using the discrepancies as a crutch, and he still considers the district responsible for state testing scores. But he also said that a two-hour test should not be used to make a valid assessment of a student. That small “snapshot” is not a true indicator of what the student is learning. Scruci said he is working on a blueprint that will “drill down” to work with each student and take the pressure off teachers when it comes to test scores. “We have to make some changes. We have to do things differently,” he said. Scruci proposed that the district should hire two curriculum coordinators, one at the secondary and one at the elementary level for next year. Ideally, he would also like to hire instructional coaches, but realizes that just is not affordable for the district. Scruci quoted the school treasurer, Rhonda Melchi, as frequently reminding him, “Just because I’m a new superintendent doesn’t mean there’s a new revenue stream.”  

Something to cheer about – BG buys new bleachers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green fans have something to cheer about – and soon they will have something new to sit on while doing so. The board of education voted Tuesday evening to spend $542,000 for new bleachers in the football stadium. A section of the current bleachers was deemed unsafe last year after serious rusting was discovered. The board voted to spend an extra $14,000 to add slip resistant decking. “I think $14,000 is a very good deal compared to the lawsuit from somebody slipping,” board member Ed Whipple said. The district will use its permanent improvement levy revenue to pay for the new bleachers. However, that levy generates $525,000 a year, so general fund monies will also have to be used for the bleachers. District treasurer Rhonda Melchi cautioned the board that the permanent improvement funds may be needed elsewhere. The $542,000 pays for new bleachers on both the home and visitor sides, handicapped accessible restrooms and pays for the old bleachers to be torn down and taken away. Kent Buehrer, the engineer on the project, said the bid actually came in 11.3 percent below estimate. Also at Tuesday’s board meeting, Kenwood Elementary Principal Kathleen Daney talked about all the “Community Connection” programs at the school. Daney listed such programs as: Students painting city snow plows. One Book BG program, which included the community in the book, “The World According to Humphrey.” Thanksgiving canned food drive. Caroling at Heritage Corner Nursing Home. Dear Santa, a district-wide program adopting 20 families with 55 children during the holidays. Jump Rope for Heart, which raised $18,478 at the elementaries for the American Heart Association. BG winter art festival in the downtown. PTO family dance, which raised supplies for the Cocoon Shelter. Family movie night, at which items were collected for the Wood County Humane Society. Team ERIN Coin Wars, which raised funds for the injured child of a staff member. Red Cross blood drive, which had 139 donors. Daney also talked about the recent effort started…