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Take a Look at This Touching Hallmark Display Created By Mr. Rogers!

Kevin Wells

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In the era of online trolling, it can be hard to find consistently positive news stories. The world seems rife with strife and there is always some negative headline or another trending around the world. In order to buck the trend of cynicism that seems to have become so popular, we are going to highlight a sugar-sweet story about one of the most beloved figures in entertainment history, Mr. Fred Rogers.

With the recent release of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the world seems to have gone slightly Mr. Rogers crazy. The majority of people reading this right now probably grew up watching Mr. Rogers on television. From how he took off his sweater to the way he laced his shoes before bringing us to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, we were all captivated and enthralled. As it turns out, Mr. Rogers wasn’t just a sweetheart on television, he also stood by his lifestyle when the cameras quit rolling. What do we mean by that? Well, that’s a great question!

According to a recent Washington Post story, Mr. Fred Rogers had been asked to help decorate one of Hallmark’s flagship locations in Manhattan for the Holidays. With Mr. Rogers an absolute sensation among children and families at the time, the collaboration made a ton of sense. After visiting the store, Mr. Rogers saw that the Hallmark shop had been decked out with ornate, elaborate, and luxurious decorations. This was never Mr. Roger’s style, so he decided to do something different. The Mister Roger’s Neighborhood star would decide to flip the fashion trend on its head by introducing his own unique display. What did the humble Mr. Rogers decide on for his decoration? Imagine standing before a small glass case that is completely clear and see-through. Within the tree, you can see a single growing Norfolk Island pine with roots and all bared for the world. At the bottom of the display was a small plaque that read, “I like you just the way you are.” Pretty on-brand for Mr. Rogers, right?

In recent years, Fred Rogers has reached an almost mythological level in the world of pop-culture. With a squeaky clean history and an understanding of children that has never been matched by kid’s television, Fred Rogers was a special and unique individual. Through his program, he taught children about community, being a good neighbor, treating others with kindness, and most importantly, treating yourself with kindness and compassion. Thanks to his gentle nature and depth of compassion, Fred Rogers was an instrumental figure in the lives of millions of boys and girls all around the world. Even 16 years after his passing, Mister Rogers Neighborhood continues to inform, guide, and educate children and adults alike.

To hear more about Mister Roger’s incredible story, fans of the man can see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks.  While not an exhaustive biopic, the Tom Hanks-led vehicle was released to rave reviews and adoration from his fans and family.

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A Florida High School First: Dissecting Synthetic Frogs

Renee Yates

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Dissecting frogs has been part of the curriculum for high school students in the United States since the 1920’s. It’s an essential part of a Biology requirement because it offers a hands-on learning experience for students in animal anatomy. J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey, Florida has just tapped into a new synthetic option that might just save students from the dubious and grossly controversial dissecting practice. 

Why Dissecting is Controversial?  

Dissecting animals in the classroom is controversial for a number of reasons, but the education validity of this practice is what is being called into question more than anything else. If it is really important for educational purposes, why have so many schools already chosen to rely on alternative methods to fulfill the requirements?  

Here’s an overview of the key points to consider.  

Unethical.  

Dissecting frogs and other animals is controversial because of animal welfare concerns. Students are uncomfortable with the requirement, but the process has caused concerns that it encourages callousness toward animals. An estimated 20 million animals are used for dissection every year in the United States. Those are animals that are used once in a classroom setting and then discarded as waste.  

Alternatives.  

Eighteen states now allow students to choose dissection alternatives without penalty. The earliest forms of alternative legislation date to 2000 with the Illinois’ Dissection Alternatives Act, but there are other laws on the books that allow alternatives. Dissecting alternatives now include computer programs, life-life models, and high-quality videos. So, it’s no longer strictly essential for students to dissect animals.  

Cost.  

The cost of dissecting “real” animal cadavers is much higher than alternative options. The cost for animal dissection has been estimated at $6,850 over five years, compared with the $900 for a site license for Digital Frog 2.5. For those schools and teachers who still prefer a more “real-life” experience for students, there’s now the SynFrog, a synthetic frog that was designed by SynDaver as an alternative to dissecting “real” animals.  

What About the SynFrog?  

The SynFrog is the latest synthetic alternative to frog dissection, spearheaded by PETA in partnership with SynDaver. These synthetic frogs are priced at $150 per frog, and they are reusable. The students at J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey, Florida became the first students to use the synthetic frogs as a viable solution to the gross and controversial “real” frogs.  The high school students have been offered this opportunity through a partnership with SynDaver

Education is always important, but the SynFrog demonstrates that there are ways to accomplish the goals of education without unnecessary destruction and cruelty to animals. These synthetic frogs are designed to be as “life-like” as possible, with a synthetic skeleton, organs, skin, muscles, and even a reproductive system to mimic the real deal—minus the gore, guts, and discarded critters at the end of the lesson.  

Perhaps instead, teachers can reiterate the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm,” as they offer alternatives for learning with synthetic learning options.   

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Stunning Snow Art Created By 60-Year-Old During Nature Walks.

Renee Yates

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Looking at the world from an aerial view can unveil some amazing scenery. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, it is possible to get a birds-eye view of just about everything in life. So when 60-year-old Simon Beck began performing as a snowshoe artist, the world began to take notice. Now, we know what you are probably thinking. What in the heck is a snowshoe artist? Who is Simon Beck? How can any of this actually be any cooler? Don’t worry, we’ve got the answers to all of your questions.

Simon Beck hadn’t dreamed of becoming a snowshoe artist when he was a child, it was just something that happened. Beck is actually a former cartographer, a profession dedicated to drawing and producing maps. Beck had earned his degree in the field while attending Oxford for engineering. Working as a cartographer would give Beck the training and attention to detail that he would need to shock the world as a snowshoe artist. 

For the better part of the past decade, Beck has been using his elaborate technical skills to create mind-blowing snowshoe art.  These images can be seen from the air, as well as all over the internet, and Beck’s results are simply staggering. To accomplish some of the more intricate patterns that he develops, Beck can spend up to 12 hours carefully walking through the snow. Beck will end up taking nearly 40,000 steps to create the perfect piece of snowshoe artwork.  The job is as intense as it sounds, and we have to imagine that Beck is physically exhausted by the time that he is done working on his art. While the output speaks for itself, we have to imagine that there is something bittersweet about watching the wind blow it away.

There are many challenges that Beck has to overcome while attending to his snowshoe art. For starters, the elements are always a factor for the duration of the project. As snow and sand can blow away at the slightest breeze, Beck spends much of his time re-working older segments of his art. Other obstacles include the grueling physical work, the massive time sink, and even destruction caused by visitors who don’t realize that Beck is working on something.

Even though Beck has been making a name for himself for years, his work is finally getting even more exposure. Beck as interviewed for a column on Artsy, and he was able to unveil some of his thoughts regarding the art form. Beck admitted during the interview that his work was fleeting, but he countered the idea by pointing to the longevity of a photograph. Beck made the insightful point that the vast majority of people will never see the Mona Lisa in person, but almost everyone has seen a photograph. Beck says, “Most people will only ever see (…) artwork as photographs.” For Beck, the fame is clearly not what he is after. Instead, it seems like Beck just wants to share his passion with the world.

Simon Beck has created more than 300 drawings across Europe. He has used his special shoes to craft artwork in the sand, in the snow, and in countries throughout the world. Each piece of artwork presents a unique challenge to Beck, thus always keeping his craft fresh.

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Photos are Used to Capture the Struggles and Rewards of Being a Caregiver

Kelly Taylor

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It is important for everyone to spend time with the members of their family because they may not know just how much time they have. A caregiver who, about ten years ago, realized that time with her ather was coming to an end, learned how to value every moment she has with her family. First, she noticed that something was strange about her father. She says that her face wasn’t as reactive as it used to be. Her father came from Egypt and moved from the United States in search of a better life. He got a job as a successful professor of mechanical engineering. This allowed him to provide for his family. His daughter realized that it was time for her to give something back to her dad who had given her such a great life in America.

At the same time, this young woman also appreciated his smile and laughter as well. She noticed that this was changing. His personality had changed. His vibrant laugh was gone. She was worried that her father had suffered a stroke. She took him to see a doctor and then, about two years after the first event, she finally got the answer. He had Parkinson’s Disease. Initially, the symptoms were relatively manageable. He was stiff from time to time. His emotions were flat. At the same time, he was still himself on the inside. Unfortunately, this was not meant to last. Things started to get worse about two years later.

She learned that she was going to have to take care of her father full-time. The roles of parent and child had been flipped. She would have to bathe him, calm him, and make sure that all of his daily needs were taken care of. This took a toll on her because she saw the person that she had known her entire life was starting to evaporate before her very eyes. At the same time, she still had to take care of herself as well. That is why she developed a few rules that can help her, and others, serve as caregivers for members of their family.

First, caregivers need to take breaks. This is a necessity. Just because she is the primary caregiver for her father doesn’t mean that she isn’t allowed to take breaks. Parents take breaks when raising their children and caregivers can take breaks as well. Research has shown that caregivers can get stressed. When this happens, they also tend to make bad decisions. Therefore, take breaks and time for self-care. This will make someone into a better caregiver because they are going to feel more rested.

Next, remember that there is an age difference. Try to bridge this difference using love. Take pictures. Bring up old memories. Try to find a way to help a parent who is aging. By reminiscing about the good times, those who are being taken care of are more likely to have positive moments and interactions that will make everything else worth it. Try to focus on the positives.

Finally, remember that the disease and the person are not the same thing. The two are different things. By remembering that the person and the disease are different, caregivers are going to avoid placing blame on the person or resenting them. In order to remember that the person and the disease are different, remember the good times that were shared. This is going to help the caregiver fight through the bad times by remembering that their loved one is still in there somewhere.

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Voicemail from Grandmother is Memorialized in a Tattoo

Renee Yates

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Recently, a story was published about a person who got a tattoo of a voicemail. This young woman received a voicemail from her grandmother about three years ago. This voicemail was left to wish this young lady a happy birthday. Even though this took place three years ago, this lady decided that she wanted to hang onto the voicemail. While most of us simply forget to clear out our old voicemails, this person made an active decision to keep this voicemail. It turns out, she is very happy that she decided to do so. Sadly, about a month after the voicemail was left, the grandmother who left the message ended up passing away.

Similar to how most of us feel when losing a member of the family, this woman was absolutely devastated. She said that she simply couldn’t find the words to describe how bad she felt or how much she missed her. Even though her grandma has passed on to a better place, she still missed her grandmother terribly. At the time, she was still in high school and didn’t have a lot of experience processing loss, grief, and tragedy. Furthermore, she decided to listen to the voicemail over and over again. She could still hear the voice of her grandmother in the voicemail and this brought her some solace and peace during an otherwise difficult time. She wanted to do something more to make sure that her grandmother was never forgotten and that her memory would live in. She eventually found a great way to do exactly that.

She decided that the best way to do this was to get a tattoo; however, while plenty of people have tattoos, this one was a little bit unique. The ink in this tattoo actually allows this person to hear the voice of her grandmother, wishing her a happy birthday via voicemail, whenever she wants. She actually found a tattoo artist who was able to look at the voicemail recording, develop the waveform, and then get apply that tattoo to the skin of the person in that exact shape. She even posted a video on Twitter showing how the tattoo works. Furthermore, it turns out this tattoo artist did a great job with the waveform. By taking the camera of a phone and holding it over the tattoo, the phone can actually place the voicemail recording. The technology, and the video that she posted, are absolutely unbelievable.

Even though the technology may seem unbelievable to many, it is actually a relatively straightforward design. The app that this lay used for her tattoo is able to scan an image wherever it might be, including on the human skin. Then, the app will take the image and translate it into an audio file that matches the video. While the app isn’t reading the sound waves on the skin, it is recognizing the graphic of the tattoo itself. After this, the app plays the audio that is tied to the graphic. Think of this as a phone reading a QR code.

Regardless of how the technology works, this lady now has a powerful way to keep the memory of her grandmother alive. She wants her grandmother to know how much of a difference she has made in her life. This tattoo is a great way to do that. She knows that her grandmother is still looking down on her from above and is blessing her every day. She wants to continue to make her grandmother proud with the long life she still has in front of her.

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The First Friday Goup

Shannon Jackson

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Kristofer Madu and Sindhu Banerjee are two students at John Hopkins University who developed a training opportunity for the arts called First Friday Group.  Using technology, with their other partner in the United States, Duncan, a photographer, this group of three has developed a program to allow college students to discover their inner talents or simply explore something new.  The First Friday Group offers courses in becoming a photographer, DJ or videographer. 

The group meets on the First Friday and teaches one on one the chosen course.  As an aid to learning the new material, the training involves the use of technology as well.  The technology serves two purposes.  First, it saves the teacher from repeating the same things in every course.  This information has been recorded.  Secondly, the trainee receives points based on how well they do with the program.  For those who score well, the First Friday Group provides opportunities for these artists to perform at regular First Friday shows before 500 people or so.

The goal of the program is to provide artistic training at an affordable rate.  Many people who would like to explore the arts are prevented by the extensive cost of training.  The goal of the First Friday Group is to offer this training at minimal cost.  Best, through the performances, which charge $5 or so per ticket, the First Friday Group is actually profitable.  This concept, since is it is profitable, will allow the group to continue the program and to add more types of art into the program.

Baltimore, where the First Friday Group is based, is an area that is economically depressed and does not have many programs that support learning the arts.  This is where the First Friday Group comes in, providing relief from some of the stress of living in Baltimore.  Baltimore is also a high crime area.  As such, artistic companies are not coming to the area to provide nonviolent outlets for local citizens.

Because of the success of their program, the founders of the First Friday Group became the United States entry in a program in Toronto, Canada designed to inspire and provide training for groups using technology to better the environment of urban areas.   Red Bull Basement University is designed to exposure young entrepreneurs to professional businesses people in their chosen field.  The sessions consist of interactive lectures, keynote speakers and one-to-one mentoring on running their business.  The program holds a contest for the entries in the program, and the United States entry came in 10th among other great young companies.  Plus, the program gives international exposure to each entrant, because the 50 participants each come from a different country.

At this time, the program has trained about 40 DJs, who are now able to go out and earn an income offering their services as a DJ.  Another benefit of the First Friday Group is that the group has been able to place some of the programs’ graduates into artistic jobs.  Those looking for or needed the services of a DJ, photographer or videographer now contact the group about hiring their trainees.  One of their photographer trainees succeeded in obtaining to photography jobs for John Hopkins University itself.

Since the program is self-sustaining, the First Friday Group is looking at expanding its artistic offerings.  It is also looking at franchising the program to other low income areas to spread its opportunities to other hard-pressed urban areas.   The three founders are looking to continue their business after they finish school.  Unlike many new graduates, these three won’t have to look for work in a tough job area.

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