Middle school students redefine nerd

Seventh- and eighth-graders from the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District
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Seventh- and eighth-graders from the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District
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What do you think of when you hear the word “nerd?”

Seventh- and eighth-graders from the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District answered that question before a panel of Grand Valley administrators and faculty members August 7 in Padnos Hall.

The students participated in “IChallengeUth,” an intense, one-week summer camp that provides middle school students an opportunity to work with community leaders to develop solutions to real problems they pose.

Susan Mendoza, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, posed a challenge: how do you make nerdy cool? During the week, students worked with faculty members Rachel Powers and Peter Wampler; Eric Kunnen, associate director for eLearning and emerging technologies for University Libraries; and student researchers to devise a solution.

The students said making nerdy cool is closely tied with making school more interesting and changing the stereotype of geek to someone who loves learning. They suggested more hands-on activities, more presentations by experts and more incentives in the classroom.

Other teams in IChallengeUth were visiting Holland Hospital, Herman Miller and other Ottawa County businesses. Their final presentations are August 8 at Haworth.

In past years, OAISD has offered a similar challenge to high school students, who have worked with faculty and staff members at the Meijer Holland Campus.