Cadence Shively creates a pop-up book at the Mazza Museum during the Findlay Branch of the American Association of University Womens 14th annual Mini Math and Science program. The camp was offered to middle school girls and focused on the engineering aspect of turning paper into three-dimensional creations. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

Staff Writer

Armed with little more than a few pieces of paper, scissors and tape, a group of middle school girls learned how to create a three-dimensional figure of a yawning cartoon character.

“You can make this character whatever kind of character you want: a boy or a girl or a monster,” explained Jeffrey Ebbeler, a paper engineer of pop-up books and illustrator of over 40 children’s books from Cincinnati.

Ebbeler led the hands-on session during the 14th annual mini math and science program hosted by AAUW-Ohio, Findlay Branch of the American Association of University Women at the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum. The day’s theme was “Pop-Up Books STEAM: STEM Adds the Art of Paper Engineering.”

Each year, the Findlay branch offers partial scholarships to two residential STEM camps: Camp Be WISE, a six-day program held at Denison University in Granville, and Camp GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Math and Science), a four-day program at Ohio Northern University in Ada. Both camps are for girls entering seventh or eighth grade and offer curricula that emphasize critical thinking through math and science activities.

Gillian Holzhauser-Graber, president of the Findlay branch, said education is a particular focus for the group.

“Both for male and female, but particularly as it relates to young women,” she said. “The topics change, the ideas change (over the years), but opening doors for young women doesn’t change.”

Twelve of the 19 girls who participated in STEM-themed summer camps attended the program at the Mazza Museum.

Mahala Mahler, a Donnell Middle School eighth-grader, went to Be WISE camp last summer, where one of her favorite activities was looking for life forms in pond water.

“Picking through the mud, it was just really fun,” said Mahala, who wants to become a biologist.

Her friend, April Sanders, who is also an eighth-grader at Donnell, participated in Camp GEMS. She said she was particularly excited for the forensic science session at camp.

“I did things with fingerprints. And I talked to the person there and I learned that that’s a really fun thing. And I actually want to go into that field,” April said.

Ebbeler talked to the girls about paper engineering and pop-up books.

“The great thing about pop-ups, the more things you add to it, the more it’s going to look like an interesting pop-up,” he said. “You can add other pieces that pop up, too. It just all needs to fold inside the page.”

Ebbeler said his interest in art started when he was a child.

“I always loved to draw. I decided to do picture books because I’m kind of a fan of all of this,” he said. “There’s really nothing else like picture books as a way to express yourself and the art that you make.”

After art school, he and his wife moved to Chicago, where he found work at Publications International. The books he designed were mostly with licensed characters like Sesame Street and Disney and occasionally fairy tale treasuries.

“The publisher was interested in producing some pop-up books and my boss asked me if I could try to figure out how to design one,” said Ebbeler.

It was a lot of trial and error, but Ebbeler is now a freelance illustrator. A picture from his book “Tiger Soup” hangs inside the Mazza Museum.

Carol Peters, a member of AAUW, has been in charge of the mini math and science day program since it was started in 2004. She said since 1994, 195 girls from Hancock County have attended one of the two camps. Thirteen have returned to Be WISE as second-year campers, and five have returned to Camp GEMS as second-year campers.

Including a $500 grant per year from 2006 to 2008 from the Madeleine T. Schneider Fund of the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation, AAUW-Ohio, Findlay Branch has raised and awarded $12,720 in partial scholarship aid to 68 girls since 1994 to attend the camps. The branch is raising funds for the financial need-based partial scholarships solely through donations from the members.

“A little bit is from foundation funds, but most of it has come out of the pockets of our members,” said Peters.

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