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Educators share reasons why they love teaching for Teacher Appreciation Week

Most people agree that educating youth is an important job.

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For National Teacher Appreciation Day, which is officially recognized on May 3, many people make efforts to let their teachers know how much of an impact they've made.

In response, teachers are taking to social media to talk about why they love their jobs and why they do what they do. 

<iframe src="//;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//;border=false"></script>[View the story "#WhyITeach" on Storify]

'Mermaids' swim with sharks in South Carolina Aquarium

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Most people have been to an aquarium by the time they're in middle school.

But you've probably never seen an attraction like the one that's soon to be at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston.

The World-Famous Weeki Wachee Mermaids will entertain guests at the aquarium March 28 through April 3.

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Hailing from Spring Hill, Florida, the mermaids swim among hundreds of animals, including fish, manatees and 8-foot-long sharks.

During each show, the mermaids delight guests with a highly technical and choreographed routine to musical numbers.

The mermaids travel nationwide, but they usually perform at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida.

At the upcoming exhibit at the South Carolina Aquarium, a limited number of guests will be able to experience a special date night event, Mermaids & Me, designed for all ages and featuring an exclusive mermaid performance in the aquarium's Great Ocean Tank. Each attendee will have the opportunity to meet and take a photo with a friendly mermaid on the land.

A mermaid kiss. #mermaniaPosted by South Carolina Aquarium on Friday, March 27, 2015

Posted by Weeki Wachee Springs on Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Man straps GoPro to son during hide-and-seek

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An adorable video captures the moments after a dad strapped a GoPro to his son's head while they played a game of hide-and-seek.

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The hilarious results show the young boy opening doors and peeking into different rooms in the family's house while he searches for his hidden parents.

Dan Iverson, the man who uploaded the video, and his wife watched the whole thing on a cellphone as they stood concealed in a closet. 

"We were watching the live preview on my phone and laughing so hard," he wrote on the video. "I'm surprised he couldn't hear us."

The toddler waddled around, pausing for long moments in what viewers can tell were moments of deep thinking about potential hiding spots. 

Eventually, the boy found his parents hiding in the closet, ending the game in the sweetest family reunion.

Barbie evolves: Mattel releases 3 new body types to reflect youth

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The world's best-selling doll just got a makeover.

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 Beginning Jan. 28, Barbie will be available in three new body types: petite, tall and curvy. The new offerings are a part of the first major change by Mattel in the iconic doll's 57-year history.

The official Twitter account for Barbie tweeted the announcement Thursday.

"We proudly add three new body types to our line," the tweet reads. "Meet the new dolls. #TheDollEvolves."

Fans have already voiced support on social media.

Others said the move came too late.

"Yes, some people will say we are late to the game," said Evelyn Mazzocco, head of the Barbie brand. "But changes at a huge corporation take time."

The company hopes that the new diverse body types, as well as other changes like new skin tones and different textures of hair, will appeal to their young audience of consumers.  

According to TIME, about 92% of American girls ages 3 to 12 have owned a Barbie, earning Mattel approximately $1 billion in sales each year.

Read more here and check out all the new designs here

Wheelchair dance troupe perform tribute for friend who died

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A video of an Ohio dance troupe's tribute performance is garnering lots of attention on the Internet.

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The video shows Revere Dance Studio's Wonders on Wheels (WOW) team dancing to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On."

The tribute performance was in honor of one the dancers who died unexpectedly last year.

"We unexpectedly lost one of our dancers back in September" Tracey Burgoon, owner and choreographer at the Revere Dance Studio told WCPO. "It was actually the week we were starting back up. We were going to start back up the week she passed away."

Since then, the team has been rehearsing the choreography for the performance, which took place on Sunday. It was the first performance without their friend and fellow dancer, Katie.

The all-girl troupe, whose members range between 6 and 27, chose to the song because Katie loved Celine Dion.  

"Her favorite singer was Celine Dion," Burgoon said. "She loved ballet, so we decided to make this song a tribute to her." 

In the performance, six WOW members were joined by 14 "shadow" dancers, girls who volunteer their time to dance alongside the team and help the girls move across the dance floor.

"They help them maneuver when they can't move their arms," Burgoon said. "We just really try to work with them. It's just as important for the 'shadow' to work with the girls."

Burgoon told People there's a waiting list of dancers who want to volunteer their time with the program, which meets twice per month and is free for participants. 

Over six million people have viewed the video of the performance on Facebook. 

Check out our WOW Team and their shadows. Posted by Revere Dance Studio on Saturday, January 9, 2016

Carolina middle school invites disabled students to cheer

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Many children and teenagers with intellectual and physical disabilities fear not fitting in.

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But at Southside Middle School in Florence, South Carolina, these students can stand out, shout, cheer, clap and call as much attention to themselves as they want.

It's all possible through The Sparkle Effect, an initiative the school recently started. The program connects students with and without disabilities through cheerleading.

"This is perfect for our school,” cheer coach Kimberly Matthews-Robinson told WBTW. “You want to give them an opportunity to truly connect with typically developing teens."

Twenty-three percent of the students at Southside are special needs students, according to the school's principal, Craig Washington.

"They are a very important part of our school culture," he told WBTW. 

Participants in the program have the opportunity to practice together and to perform at halftime shows during the girls’ basketball games.

The team performed for the second time Wednesday night.

“They can interact. They can hug. The children and kids embrace them,” said Talisha Cooper, whose daughter Kennedi participates in the program.

"Really one of our goals is for them to realize that we are all the same," said teacher Miriam Fulghum.

Southside is the first and only school in the state of South Carolina involved with the programs. School officials hope to spread it throughout the district. 

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); = id;  js.src = "//;version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>Do yourself a favor and watch this story if you want to start your day with a smile! #GreatJobSouthsideMiddleSchoolPosted by WBTW News13 on Thursday, December 17, 2015

'Blues Clues' co-creator disputes notion of children's short attention spans

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The co-creator of the popular children's show "Blues Clues" doesn't think preschoolers have a short attention span problem.

In an op-ed published by the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, Todd Kessler says he was met with long looks from TV executives when he pitched a narrative-show arc program for preschoolers.

They said kids needed a quick bites format. Kessler says he "disagreed wholeheartedly" with them and provided scientfic research to back his point.

Using a format with a two-sided mirror, researchers from an independent testing company observed preschoolers watching the short-form masterpiece "Sesame Street" and a "Blues Clues" pilot.

"Preschoolers are great test subjects because they are completely candid," Kessler writes. "If your program is not engaging, they won’t watch it just to be polite. Instead, they’ll turn their attention elsewhere."

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"Sesame Street" held the kids' attention 78 percent of the time, while Kessler's "Blues Clues" held their attention for 93 percent of the time.

Kessler says the notion of children's "short-attention span," which is allegedly a byproduct of TV, has evolved over time and has even spread to children's books.

Kessler recently tried to publish a longer, adventure picture book of about 2,000 words for kids but was met with reluctance by a publisher.

"Why do content providers have such a persistently low expectation of young children?" he asks. It is especially puzzling for him as some of today's adults grew up on popular "Dr. Suess" books that were also the same length as the book he's trying to publish.

In September2015, picture books averaged fewer than 500 words and took children less than five minutes to read, he says.

Not only is that a waste of money, but it's also intellectually unhealthy for children, he argues.

Read the full piece here.

Red eyes after a swim? Don't blame chlorine

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If you think it’s the chlorine that makes your eyes red in swimming pools, think again.

According to the annual healthy swimming report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), swimmer’s urine mixed with other chemicals causes your eyes to get red and sting in swimming pools, Today reports.  

“It’s not the chlorine itself. It’s the chlorine mixed with poop and sweat and a lot of other things we bring into the water with us,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s healthy swimming program, to Today.

Hlavsa said the nitrogen in urine “combines with the chlorine and it forms what’s known as chloramine … that causes the red eyes.” Also, beware if the pool you are swimming in has a very strong smell of chlorine. “Healthy pools don’t smell like chemicals,” Today reports.

Most people believe chlorine will help eliminate urine from swimming pools, but Hlavsa told Today the chlorine is busy cleaning E. coli and other potential germs in the water.

“People think waterborne disease is something that happens outside the United Sates. But really, we have plenty of them here,” Hlvasa said to Today.

Hlavsa recommends pool owners to get a pool tester. “You’re looking at both the chlorine level and the pH,” she said to Today.  The chlorine level should be “1 to 3 ppm” and the pH level “between 7.2 to 7.8. The pH is important because it determines how effective that chlorine is,” Hlavsa told Today.

The CDC also offers more tips such as showering before getting in the water, and trying not to swallow any pool water.

“We don’t want to scare people away from swimming,” Hlavsa said to Today. “It’s just about doing it in a healthier and safer way.”

Read more at 

Students with special needs win homecoming king, queen

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For the first time ever, two students with special needs are the reigning homecoming king and queen of Northgate High School in Newnan, Georgia.

Jessica Marintdale and Anastas "Anie" Nenov were crowned 2014 homecoming king and queen Friday. Both students are from the special-needs self-contained class.

“They were all campaigning for these kids. They were just amazing,” said Cathy Nenov, Anie's mom. “They are all destined for success, especially because of their hearts.”

Nenov said she was touched to hear that the class had nominated her 19-year-old son, who has fragile X syndrome.

>> ON WSBTV.COM: Watch video from the homecoming ceremony

“It’s a developmental disorder that looks a lot like autism, involves delays in cognitive speech, motor skills, but also has a real gift for comedy, enthusiasm and happiness,” Nenov said.

Anie and Jessica are close friends and have gained a world of self-confidence after being crowned.

“The students went wild, stomping their feet and chanting their names,” Nenov said. “Their spirit was amazing. I was amazed. I’d never seen my son be so outgoing like this.”

Jessica, an 18-year-old who Nenov said has unidentified developmental disabilities, was also thrilled to win.

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“She’s just overjoyed,” said Margaret Yelland, Jessica’s grandmother and guardian. “It’s just really special that they get treated like regular kids, because they really are.”

Jessica’s family found a couple of prom-style dresses for Jessica to wear for her special evening. However, they were quickly informed that their classroom was filled with prom dresses that the teachers had bought for Jessica.

She said, “Ma, did you know you could cry and laugh at the same time?” Yelland said of her granddaughter finding out she had been nominated.

Yelland said her son traveled from Michigan to walk Jessica down the football field.

“It was wonderful. The whole stadium stood up and screamed her name,” Yelland said. “I never realized that there were kids like these kids. A whole bunch of parents have done a wonderful job.”

Another student who was also nominated took her to a beauty parlor to make sure she looked the part.

“The kids on the court were just as happy for Jessica and Anie as anybody in the school,” Nenov said.

Nenov said her son’s winning homecoming court showed her there is an abundance of compassion and kindness in their community.

“I’ve always been a big believer of them being in regular population,” Nenov said of special-needs students.

She understands some students need a balance but said that Anie has always been as mainstreamed as possible. He is a drama student and works with the Northgate Vikings football team. He’s never missed a game, his mother said.

Jessica has aspirations to work in the service industry after high school.

Both teens are involved with an organization called ASPIRES Inc., which raises awareness for families and their children who experience developmental disabilities.

“There are a lot of potential homecoming kings and queens out there, and I would love for them to know that someday they’ll be recognized,” she said.

As for parents, Nenov said she would suggest they mainstream their special-needs child as much as possible.

“I know they are going through a hard time and wondering if they are doing the right thing. Wondering if they’ll get a break, if there’s help, if there’s hope,” she said. “I think this is a sign there’s hope for us all.”

Video games not so bad for kids after all, study says

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​​A new study finds playing video games could actually help a child's development — with a couple caveats. (Via Rodrigo Della Fávera / CC BY 2.0)

The study on kids from 10 to 15 was published in the journal Pediatrics by a behavioral scientist at the University of Oxford. It found "low levels of regular daily play related to better psychosocial adjustment, compared with no play."

"Low levels" was defined as less than one hour, and the link between the video game playing and the benefits, although statistically substantial, was small. (Via NBC)

What wasn't small was the contrast between how different outlets reacted to the study. 

Tech blog Gizmodo ran the headline, "Shock Survey Says Video Games are Good for Kids" and blamed media for painting young gamers as future "emotionless killers."

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Other outlets like the International Business Times were more surprised that games are "Not Always Bad For Kids." 

And it's also worth noting that sites like Gizmodo and GameSpot that tend to cover games used images of active people playing games on their feet, while more traditional publication The Independent opted for a screen capture from the controversial "Grand Theft Auto" series — which raises the question: 

"I was thinking, well, which games were you playing?" (Via NBC)

The study, which focused more on how long the kids were playing the games, didn't actually say. 

The link between video games and behavior has long drawn public interest, from senators questioning the influence of "Mortal Kombat" to President Barack Obama calling for research into violent video games as a part of his gun-control efforts. (Via C-SPANForbes)

And that might help explain why we tend to see stories like this pop up every time a new study on that link comes out. (Via CNNWiredSlateThe Huffington Post)

And also why many local news channels that ran the story are still using video of games that came out more than 10 years ago. (Via WTKRTXCNWRC-TV)

For his part, the researcher who put the study together told the BBC that he hopes it will provide a more moderated view of how video games affect kids.

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