Iler turns mistakes into learning moments for his students

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Biology teacher Josh Iler isn’t bashful about his failures. “Failure is the best thing on the planet,” Iler said with a grin. So he teaches his students at Bowling Green High School to not be afraid of making mistakes. “Embrace failure. You will screw up way more than you will ever succeed,” Iler said as he spoke to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club after being named one of the district’s inspiring educators of the year. Not one for public recognition, he titled his talk “Mr. Iler – an inspirational educator or just a guy doing his job?” To Iler, that means showing students how much can be learned from mistakes. Some of those mistakes he shared with Kiwanis – like the photo of him in the crawl space after neglecting to turn on the sump pump. “You will learn to never do that again,” he said. Or the photo of the deer that he missed because he left his rangefinder at home. “I’ll never do that again.” Or the video of the deer lungs that he inflated in his classroom by blowing into a tube – allowing students to see them expand and retract. “You may ask, ‘why is this on the failure page, Mr. Iler,’” he said to the Kiwanis. That would be because he made the mistake of inhaling through the tube, causing many in his audience to cringe. That’s part of what makes Iler an unconventional teacher. He has a natural talent with students, according to Jodi Anderson, secondary curriculum coordinator for Bowling Green City Schools. He excels at creating meaningful relationships with students, she said. That was evidenced when Iler enlisted the help of students in taming the overgrown courtyard area at the high school – building a koi pond and planting landscaping beds. Superintendent Francis Scruci said seniors came in on weekends and during their spring break to help with the project. “That’s a testament to what you do in the classroom,” Scruci said. Iler’s response was, “I don’t know any other way.” Though he’s been teaching biology and anatomy for 13 years at the high school, his lessons go well beyond textbook science. His unconventional approach includes philosophical advice from his hero, Bill Murray. “Don’t worry,” Iler said. “Failure and lifelong learning is the only path to success. That’s exactly what I think about every day.” “Don’t follow your dreams,” Iler advised. Instead, take them along on your journey. Iler’s path to becoming a teacher was also non-traditional. He credits his parents for making him who he has become. His dad is a hard-working tow-truck driver, and his mom is retired from working in BGSU Residence Life. “My dad always told me I was going to be a teacher. And like most teenagers, I didn’t listen,” he said. After high school, he worked with local builder Sam Pahl. He and Pahl shared the same stubborn traits and wacky humor. But one day, Iler arrived on the job to find Pahl dead on the construction site. “It changed my course,” Iler said. “His son said, ‘you don’t want to do this the rest of your life.’” So Iler went to BGSU, still unsure of his direction. But several professors succeeded in making science exciting. “I fell in love with science,” he said, crediting his professors with accomplishing the almost impossible. “I wasn’t a science person. I wasn’t even a school person.” As his studies continued, one of his professors told Iler he would make a great teacher. “It’s those little things that stick out,” Iler said. “The little…

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BG Schools takes drudgery out of math, science & tech

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…

Astronaut & author Mark Kelly to speak at BGSU, Oct. 24

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS As part of events commemorating the celebration of Jerome Library’s 50th anniversary, University Libraries will host astronaut and author Mark Kelly as part of its Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories lecture series Oct. 24 with a free presentation at  7 p.m. Lenhart Grand Ballroom | Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Kelly’s talk will be preceded by a VIP reception at 5: p.m. Tockets, which include premium reserved seating for the lecture, are $100. To tickets click here To register for free lecture click here With an extraordinary career of service to our military, our nation and humanity, Kelly has secured his place in history as a role model, modern-day pioneer and leader of distinction. Together with his identical twin brother, Scott, he has laid the groundwork for the future of space exploration as the subjects of an unprecedented NASA study on how space affects the human body. Kelly, author of “Gabby: A Story f Courage and Hope,” is known for captivating audiences with lessons learned from his extensive travels and experiences in the Navy, outer space and on the ground. From leading teams in some of the most dynamic environments imaginable, to the thrill of spaceflight, and the recovery and resilience of his wife Gabrielle Giffords, he will reveal what he believes are the foundations for success to accomplish your mission in life and work.

STEM in the Park embraces every day science & fun

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – are infused in daily living. Don’t believe it? Take a stroll through STEM in the Park that sprawled inside and outside of the Bowling Green State University Field House Saturday. You’ll see feats of engineering, and owls, starfish and other fauna from around the world, and bottles with multicolored water  that illustrate the ocean layers. You’ll also see kids making pizza dough, and taking those first tentative sounds on musical instruments. You’ll see kids tumbling and watching bubbles float high above them. And don’t forget the slime. That was the favorite of Melissa Works’ four children, age 4 to 10. Logan, 8, was especially enthusiastic about the slime, his sister Rozlyn, 6, liked the bubbles and gymnastics, and all including Benjamin, 10, and Serena. 4, were enjoying the free hot dog and mac and cheese lunch provided by Tony Packo’s. Well, Serena was more interested in leaving her mark with a crayon to the paper table coverings. Work said that the activities held the interest of her crew. They still had the outside to explore, she said. This is the eighth year the event has been staged on the campus of Bowling Green State University, Emilio Duran, who teaches in the College of Education and Human Development, said the idea for the event first occurred to him and his wife, Lena Duran, who also teaches in the college. The college, they realized, offers many events for students and teachers. “We wanted to do something for families,” Duran said. “This is a community event. It’s about learning about science together.” The event is presented by Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education. People don’t realize that STEM can be fun, he said. The first year drew about 1,200 people. “It keeps growing and growing.” Duran estimates about 6,000 people will attend STEM in the Park this year. There are more booths, about 160 and activities about 180. “It’s all hands-on,” Duran said. “This is the essence of the event. You always have to do something. That’s how you learn science, not observing and listening. You do science.” Those activities appeal to a range of ages. The organizers work all year, he said. Much of that work involves rounding up the corporate support that makes the event possible. Student volunteers working at booths are another key element, he said. Three students in the Academic Investment in Mathematics and Science program were taking a lunch break from their volunteer duties. Griffin Spilman, who is studying to be a veterinarian, was helping kids make kaleidoscopes. He, Denaja Haygood, and Kapri Burnett said they all enjoyed seeing how they kids reacted to the various activities. “It’s nice to see the excitement on their faces,” Haygood, a biochemistry major, said. “I was very passionate about science at a young age,” Burnett, who is studying forensic biology, said. “Helping to expose kids to science is something I’m very happy about.” Duran said the event gives students a chance to interact with people from Bowling Green and the surrounding area. “Most of the people here are local,” Spilman, who comes from Cincinnati, said. “It’s nice to see the community I’m going to be part of for the next few years.” Jeff Gonzales had brought his two young sons up from Bryan for the event at the urging of his wife, who had to work. His mother, Beverly Gonzalez, said she’d also heard of the event and thought it’d be a great activity for her grandsons, Manny, 6, and Israel, 4. He liked…

All Wheels and Robotics theme of STEM in the Park, Sept. 23

STEM in the Park, a free, family day of hands-on displays and activities geared toward science, technology, engineering and mathematics at Bowling Green State University, will feature two new, must-see zones Sept. 23: All Wheels and Robotics. Participants can get their wheels turning with STEM by encountering all types of wheels, tires and gears in motion in the All Wheels Zone. Sponsored by Thayer Dealerships, this zone features The Right Direction, a local organization whose mission is to empower youth by increasing action sports’ impact and access as a tool for positive youth development. “We are thrilled to have The Right Direction at STEM in the Park this year, especially because of its strong positive message for youth, its STEM application in physical science concepts and the high-energy demonstrations,” said Jenna Pollock, STEM in the Park coordinator. In the Robotics Zone, participants will interact with organizations that highlight cutting-edge technology involved with the design, construction, operation and application of robots. More than 150 unique, hands-on STEM activity stations will be offered at STEM in the Park, which will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Perry Field House. Community partners, local businesses and area universities created the interactive displays and activities to engage children of all ages in the STEM fields. Back by popular demand for the eighth annual event are the Food Science Zone, the Digital Media Zone, the high-energy Science of Sports Zone and the H2O Zone, which explores the science behind all of water’s amazing uses. As part of Food Science Zone, attendees are invited to bring a food or basic household/personal care item to donate to Food for Thoughts. Donations will be taken to the Cocoon Shelter. A Roots to STEM Pre K-2 Zone is also back this year, featuring activities that cater specifically to younger children. The STEM stage will once again feature super-sized demos from the Imagination Station and the Toledo Zoo. Activity station hosts include BGSU’s Marine Lab and Herpetarium, SSOE, Verizon, Challenger Learning Center of Lake Erie West, Nature’s Nursery, Toledo Zoo and more than 80 other institutions and organizations. STEM in the Park is the brainchild of Drs. Emilio and Lena Duran, both faculty members in BGSU’s College of Education and Human Development, and seeks to increase public engagement in the STEM disciplines in a family-friendly atmosphere. The event allows participants to become a food technologist, dabble in robotics, launch pop rockets, pet lizards, take home free STEM activities and much more. Everyone who attends the event will receive take-home materials, activity ideas and a complimentary catered lunch from Tony Packo’s. Parking is free. NWO, the Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education, organizes the free event on campus and is committed to increasing attendance among low-income and at-risk children. For the fifth consecutive year, transportation will be provided for families from several school districts in urban and low-income neighborhoods. Nearly 4,700 people attended last year’s event. NWO is a partnership among area universities, K-12 schools and community partners, who all come together to showcase innovation and educational opportunities and promote positive attitudes toward STEM teaching and learning. STEM in the Park presenting sponsors for 2017 are Bowling Green State University, BP, First Solar, Lubrizol, PPG and Verizon. In addition to NWO, community sponsors include Perrysburg Rotary Club, SSOE, Thayer Family Dealerships, Toyota, Wal-Mart and The Andersons. Bostdorff’s, Columbia Gas of Ohio, Glass City Federal Credit Union, Partners in Education, Tony Packo’s and Whirlpool comprise the general sponsor list. Visit for more information and to pre-register to attend the event. ###

With eyes on the sky, diverse crowd of viewers share eclipse experience

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For an astronomical event, the solar eclipse provoked some very down-to-earth reactions – awe, conviviality, generosity. Normal campus life seemed to be put on pause at Bowling Green State University Monday afternoon as the moon rolled over the sun. Though Bowling Green was not in the path of eclipse in its totality, students, faculty, and community members gathered outside on the lawn of the planetarium. More than a 100 made their way to the roof to watch the eclipse with all manner of approved devices, from telescopes to homemade cardboard boxes. The standard equipment for the day were viewing glasses with colorful cardboard frames that looked like the 3D glasses given out at the movies. Those were in short supply, but people shared them. People would look intently at the sun, and then pulling the glasses off, they would offer them to the nearest person, often a stranger. Heather Sekerak came equipped with a homemade box to help her two children, Jozef and Autumn, view the eclipse. “We’re not here because of the hype,” she said. “We’re here because it’s cool.” Though she said she didn’t have the academic disposition to formally study science, she loves it and wants to pass that love on to her children. “This is the opportunity for them to know there’s something beyond them and something bigger than themselves,” she said. “I love science for who created it; God created science, so I love it.” Jayson and Cari Hines were also there with their young children, Aiden and Amelia. Cari Hines said they get to a lot of the shows at the planetarium, and that’s rubbed off on Aiden, who loves the planets. He even has a favorite, Jupiter. “Part of the moon is covering the sun. Did you notice that?” he asked the reporter with whom he’d shared his glasses. Amelia said the sun, at this point a third covered “looks like the moon.” One 8-year-old, though, was less impressed with the eclipse. With only a sliver of the sun covered by the moon, it wasn’t quite living up to his expectations. He did agree with the suggestion that having 3D eclipse glasses may make it more exciting. Rachael Brooks, a sophomore from Kent, said it was fun to have the viewing at the planetarium where they could enjoy a sense of community with the others on hand. “It’s not just the people from BGSU,” said her friend Morgan Reasinger, a sophomore from Hilliard. “It’s all the families. It’s fun to talk with them.” Viewing the historic event in company was part of what drew sisters-in-law Debbie and Amber Croke to the campus from Sylvania. Debbie Croke said she heard about the viewing and at the spur of the moment called her sister-in-law and asked if she wanted to come down with her. All the eclipse viewing glasses were sold out, so this was a chance to safely see the event. They remember using shoe boxes to view an eclipse when they were in elementary school, and now it was fun to see all the children on the roof sharing this experience. For Renee Hopper, from Dublin, this was a great way to spend her very first day of classes as a BGSU student. For one thing, she could look over campus and get a better sense of the geography. The eclipse is so rare, and it was enjoyable to see everyone gathered together to witness it, she said. “This is special to have freshmen and upper classmen passing glasses back and forth.” Already people were talking about…

‘Making It’ camp builds kids’ interest in manufacturing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Their assignment was serious: Design a glider that can carry a spectrometer over Lake Erie to identify algal blooms before they reach dangerous levels. Their supplies were not so serious: A shoe box, cardboard, duct tape, popsicle sticks, yarn, aluminum foil, Saran wrap and pennies. The young engineers were middle school students, mostly from Bowling Green, who signed up last month for a five-day manufacturing camp, called “Making It.” The camp was designed to help Wood County students learn about manufacturing, teamwork and local production facilities. In addition to spending one day engineering gliders at Bowling Green State University, the students also visited manufacturing sites in Wood County, including Owens-Illinois, Home Depot, Lubrizol and Northwood Industries. Students toured each of the sites to get a better picture of what modern industries look like. Penta Career Center also hosted an advanced manufacturing lab using robotics. The goal was to show students that manufacturing no longer means repetitive, thoughtless processes. In many cases, it involved high-tech engineering skills. “This is some really good hands-on experience,” said Maria Simon, of Wood County District Public Library, which was one of the camp sponsors. “It’s not just ‘Let’s make a glider.’ But let’s make one that does what we want it to do.” As the students struggled with their gliders, they heard from two NASA engineers from the Glenn Research Center, Nicole Smith and Eric Reed. “I hear you guys are going to be doing some pretty incredible stuff this week,” Smith said. Both women work with the Orion spacecraft in Sandusky. Smith is an aerospace engineer. “That actually does make me a rocket scientist. You can make all the jokes you want,” she said with a grin. Reed works on the vacuum chamber and contamination control for the spacecraft. “Our technicians won’t be eating cheeseballs,” Smith joked. Both women talked about the thrill of being part of a project that will help humans reach Mars. “We are pushing beyond what we’ve ever done before,” Reed said. “This is why I went to school,” Smith said. They encouraged the students to not give up in school – even when it gets really tough. “I got Cs in physics. I’m not going to lie,” Smith said. “I failed the first physics test I took in my life,” Reed said. “Don’t give up. It’s pretty tough stuff, but it’s so rewarding,” Smith said. And never be afraid to be smart, they added. “Let’s be honest, it is really cool to be smart,” Smith said. Helping to organize the camp was the office of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. Community partners for the camp included BGSU, Wood County Economic Development Commission, Ohio Means Jobs Wood County, Bowling Green City Schools, Northwest Ohio for Excellence in STEM Education, Wood County District Public Library, Job and Family Services of Wood County, Penta Career Center and Wood County Educational Service Center.