Handmade Canoes? Why Not?

Canoe building hobbyist Karl Koch of North Londonderry Township shows one of the many wooden vessels he's made throughout the years. He currently enjoys fishing from this 15-foot red cedar strip canoe he built in 2008. (Lebanon Daily News)

Canoe building hobbyist Karl Koch of North Londonderry Township shows one of the many wooden vessels he’s made throughout the years. He currently enjoys fishing from this 15-foot red cedar strip canoe he built in 2008. (Lebanon Daily News)

Most people who want an item bad enough will break down, go out and buy it. Others, however, simply aren’t wired that way.

Karl Koch, age 75, certainly has a mind and drive of his own, for as long as the task is doable, he prefers to build whatever it is he wants with his own two hands. Take for example the four – soon to be five — wooden canoes the retired schoolteacher has built all by himself, just for fun.

Koch’s first canoe, a heavy canvas-hulled 15-footer, was finished in 1963 and lasted him nearly 50 years before giving it away to a younger man with a stronger back. Koch then built three more wooden crafts since 2005, and he’s currently working on a 14-foot strip canoe, which needs just a few more finishing touches.

“When I graduated from Penn State in 1961, a friend of mine bought an old broken canoe for $5 at a yard sale,” Koch explained. “It had a huge, gaping hole in the bottom, but he went out and fixed that thing and boy was it beautiful.

“For two years, I marveled over my friend’s canoe, until one day I decided I would build my own. So I bought a 35-cent canoe building plan I saw advertised in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and that’s how it all began.”

As Koch sat on a shaded bench outside his family’s North Londonderry Township home the talented handyman recalled the mistakes he made on his first canoe.

“I used a table saw to cut the boards, which wasted lumber. I sanded some spots too thinly, and if I hit a rock, that canvas started taking on water fast,” he explained. “It wasn’t sealed right.”

But over the years Koch solidly patched up the old canoe so it no longer leaked and the boat really handled well.

Canoe Two: Later, he started in on his second project, a watertight plywood bind-and-seal kit canoe, which he gave this one to his niece.

Canoe Three: His next was a strip canoe, Koch said. “They are lighter, more beautiful, and you have more flexibility in building exactly what you want.”

“The whole process takes about 200 hours depending on how hard you want to work at it,” said Koch. “I really wanted a red cedar canoe, and to me, it didn’t matter how long it took, so I just built one.”

But even this third attempt did not completely satisfy the mindset of the always-improving craftsman. He found that he built the gunwales a little too high for his liking, and they caught the wind too much, making the craft a bit tippy. He gave this one to his son and started over again with a few adjustments.

Canoe Four: On his fourth attempt, Koch got it right. The lower-riding 15-footer he now uses is perfect for him to handle, it steers well and is light enough for him to portage to the water using the wooden wheel and axle system he rigged up for easy transport.

It has a self-woven deer rawhide seat, custom-built kayak-style paddles, and it perfectly clears the back of Koch’s little Volkswagen Jetta, which he uniquely uses for transferring his wooden vessel to various local lakes, streams and rivers.

“I fish this one pretty hard, as you can see from the nicks on the Kevlar scratch pads,” said Koch. “It’s muddy and dinged up pretty good, but it looks beautiful when it’s wet, and that’s when it really matters.”

Canoe Five: As for Koch’s fifth canoe in progress, which currently resides in his shop among an assortment of homemade snowshoes, woven milkweed ropes and “hobo-style” camp stoves, it may well be his last stint at canoe building.

“I think this might be my final one, but you never know,” Koch said with a smile. “I’m just a farm kid at heart, and I’d rather work with my hands than watch television. Building stuff is in my blood.”

Reported by TYLER FRANTZ of The (Lebanon) Daily News from NORTH LONDONDERRY TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania.

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This beautiful bug is wrecking American forests

An emerald ash borer is just a bit smaller than a penny, but the little bug packs plenty of punch. Scientists say it is responsible for destroying thousands of ash trees in the United States. (Submitted)

An emerald ash borer is just a bit smaller than a penny, but the little bug packs plenty of punch. Scientists say it is responsible for destroying thousands of ash trees in the United States. (Submitted)

Legions of tiny, shiny green monsters have invaded parts of Pennsylvania, leaving forests of dead and dying trees.

The emerald ash borer, a small metallic green beetle native to Asia and Russia, was first found in the U.S. in June 2002, in Michigan. Scientists believe it hitched a ride in a packing crate.

Now the beetle has spread to 22 states, including 51 counties in Pennsylvania. There’s no known cure for a tree after it has been infested by the bug.

“It’s an extremely destructive pest,” said Sven-Erik Spichiger, an insect specialist for the state Department of Agriculture. “Obviously when it gets to an area you’re looking at 99 percent-plus mortality of all ash tree species.”

Ash uses: Pennsylvania’s native ash is a straight-grained hardwood harvested for lumber and other uses. Among them: furniture, baseball bats — including the famous Louisville Slugger — hockey sticks and tool handle. The ash borer has “absolutely” changed how the ash wood industry operates, Spichiger said.

Ash is also used as firewood. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is urging campers and people with wood stoves not to move firewood. Instead people need to “burn it where you buy it,” an effort that can help stop the spread of the ash borer. The insect is quite hearty too — itcan live in cut ash wood for up to two years, Spichiger said.

Animal help: Some species of woodpeckers eat ash borers, and will start to peel the outer layer of bark off the ash trees. If you see severe woodpecker damage on an ash tree, it’s a sign the ash borers are present, Spichiger said.

But the birds don’t eat enough to stop the ash borer or get it under control.

“There’s not anything natural that’s keeping up with it so far, or they wouldn’t be having the problems in other areas,” Brown noted.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry is trying to help, too: It is releasing stingless wasps, which prey on the ash borers. The wasps can help control the pest, but it will take a long time, he said.

How to help: For information on the emerald ash borer, visit www.emeraldashborer.info or stopthebeetle.info.

The state Department of Agriculture is also on the lookout for another invasive species, the Asian longhorned beetle, which is black with white spots and long antennae; it affects maple trees.

Sightings of these or any other potentially invasive insects should be reported to the department at 1-866-253-7189 or badbug@pa.gov.

Reported by By ELIZABETH SKRAPITS of the Wilkes-Barr Citizens’ Voice in WILKES-BARR, Pennsylvania.

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Tetris goes big time

Ever wish you could play a video game on a really, really big TV screen? That’s just what happened Saturday night in Philadelphia when a group of tech fanatics played the classic video game Tetris on the side of the 29-story Cira Centre building.

The classic video game Tetris is played on the 29-story Cira Centre in Philadelphia, Saturday, April 5, 2014, using hundreds of LED lights embedded in its glass facade. The spectacle kicks off a citywide series of events called Philly Tech Week and also celebrates the upcoming 30th anniversary of Tetris. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

The classic video game Tetris is played on the 29-story Cira Centre in Philadelphia, Saturday, April 5, 2014, using hundreds of LED lights embedded in its glass facade. The spectacle kicks off a citywide series of events called Philly Tech Week and also celebrates the upcoming 30th anniversary of Tetris. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

The skyscraper, which has hundreds of LED lights embedded in the building’s glass facade, usually is used to display colorful patterns at night, but on Saturday it was connected to a computer that allowed people to interact with the lights and play the game.

“It has been probably 15 years since I played Tetris last on a Game Boy, and it’s much different playing on the side of building that’s a half-mile away,” the city resident Sam Robinson said. “Everything’s happening so quick.”

It wasn’t the first time Tetris has been played on a building. But the 100,000-square-foot “screen” — which includes the north and south faces of the structure — could be a record.

The spectacle kicked off a citywide series of events called Philly Tech Week. It also celebrated the upcoming 30th anniversary of a game revered as the epitome of elegance and simplicity, said Frank Lee, an associate professor of digital media at Drexel University.

Tetris, created by Russian computer programmer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984, challenges players to rotate and arrange falling shapes into complete rows.

It became a global phenomenon in the late 1980s after game designer Henk Rogers, who had seen Tetris at a trade show in Las Vegas, acquired the rights and struck a deal to put it on Nintendo’s original Game Boy.

Reported by KATHY MATHESON of the Associated Press from PHILADELPHIA, Pa.

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Color your county

Test your coloring skills with this map of Pennsylvania's York and Adams counties.

Test your coloring skills with this map of Pennsylvania’s York and Adams counties.

York Dispatch graphic artist Todd Stouch created this map of York and Adams counties as a coloring page. How much fun can coloring a map be? Well here’s a challenge for you: Color the map with as few colors as possible, but do it without allowing sections with a shared edge to use the same color. Read more about other map-coloring challenges here.

The printable version of the map is below.

Click on the image for a printer friendly version of this drawing, color it and then mail it back to us so we can post it here. Get even more coloring pages at the Junior Dispatch’s COLORING PAGE section!

Click on this picture for a printer-friendly image. When the image appears against a black background, click it again for a full-size version. Finally, when you print it, click on the “scale image to fit paper” in your printer settings.

Click on this picture for a printer-friendly image. When the image appears against a black background, click it again for a full-size version. Finally, when you print it, click on the “scale image to fit paper” in your printer settings.

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Even cats like to ride bicycles

 Rudi Saldia and his cat Mary Jane are often seen buzzing around Philadelphia on his bicycle. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Rudi Saldia and his cat Mary Jane are often seen buzzing around Philadelphia on his bicycle. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Saldia often buzzes around Philadelphia with his year-old feline Mary Jane perched on his shoulder. Their urban adventures have turned heads on the street and garnered big hits on YouTube.

The 26-year-old bike courier didn’t intend to become Internet-famous. He originally shot footage of the outings only to prove to his mom that he was taking Mary Jane — nicknamed MJ — for a spin.

“She said, ‘No way! You’re not taking your cat out for the ride,’ which is the reaction I still get even after people see this video,” Saldia said.

Saldia used a GoPro sports camera mounted on his bike to capture images of him and MJ, a brown and black tabby with bright yellow eyes. She seems to take the trips in stride, even nuzzling her owner as he pedals, though she gets a bit spooked by sirens and buses.

“She enjoys seeing everything and having the wind blow in her ears, especially being an indoors cat. This is really her only time outside,” he said. “On the shoulder, she loves it. She’s in total zen mode.”

The first video, which he posted last October, has more than 1.2 million views on YouTube. GoPro spokeswoman AnneMarie Hennes said she saw it earlier this year and was blown away. She immediately reached out to Saldia to get permission to use the footage in a camera ad, which was posted online last month.

“It’s just unique and he did a really good job shooting it,” said Hennes. “We hooked him up with some cameras so he can make more cool MJ content.”

Saldia, who also belongs to long-distance riding club, said he began taking out MJ when she was 2 months old, at first just along his quiet street in downtown Philadelphia. The rides eventually went farther, with positive reactions from both MJ and passers-by.

“People are thrilled to see the guy with the cat ride his bike down the street,” Saldia said.

But online commenters have been less kind, questioning whether the unharnessed cat is safe. Saldia noted he is equally vulnerable while riding in the city and takes necessary precautions.

“I’m very confident that the cat would be better off in an accident than I would be, so I’m not worried about taking her out,” he said.

Saldia’s mom said although she didn’t believe her son at first, she now thinks the tandem rides are “kind of cool.”

“He enjoys it, the cat loves to be with him (and) it’s better than being home alone,” said Sarah Saldia, of Sewell, N.J. “I don’t think they’re hurting anybody.”

———

Online:

Saldia’s video: http://bit.ly/ZdGK4U

GoPro video: http://bit.ly/1a70dUa

———

Reported by KATHY MATHESON of the Associated Press from PHILADELPHIA, Pa. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/kmatheson.

Bicyclist Rudi Saldia and his cat Mary Jane pose for a portrait during an interview with the Associated Press in Philadelphia. Saldia often buzzes around Philadelphia with his year-old feline Mary Jane perched on his shoulder. Their urban adventures have turned heads on the street and garnered big hits on YouTube. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Bicyclist Rudi Saldia and his cat Mary Jane pose for a portrait during an interview with the Associated Press in Philadelphia. Saldia often buzzes around Philadelphia with his year-old feline Mary Jane perched on his shoulder. Their urban adventures have turned heads on the street and garnered big hits on YouTube. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Prepare yourself for a bug’s lovesong

Billions of winged teenagers will crawl out of the ground, sing their hearts out and fall in love this summer.

As crazy as that sounds, it’s reality for the Brood II cicadas that only come around once every 17 years. The insects are found only in eastern North America, and nowhere else in the world.

This photo provided by the University of Connecticut, shows a cicada in Pipestem State Park in West Virginia on May 27, 2003. Any day now, cicadas with bulging red eyes will creep out of the ground after 17 years and overrun the East Coast with the awesome power of numbers. Big numbers. Billions. Maybe even a trillion. For a few buggy weeks, residents from North Carolina to Connecticut will be outnumbered by 600 to 1. Maybe more. And the invaders will be loud. A chorus of buzzing male cicadas can rival a jet engine.(AP Photo/University of Connecticut, Chirs Simon)

This photo provided by the University of Connecticut, shows a cicada in Pipestem State Park in West Virginia on May 27, 2003. Any day now, cicadas with bulging red eyes will creep out of the ground after 17 years and overrun the East Coast with the awesome power of numbers. Big numbers. Billions. Maybe even a trillion. For a few buggy weeks, residents from North Carolina to Connecticut will be outnumbered by 600 to 1. Maybe more. And the invaders will be loud. A chorus of buzzing male cicadas can rival a jet engine.(AP Photo/University of Connecticut, Chirs Simon)

Known as magicicada, they have been maturing underground for 17 years, slurping on fluid from the roots of trees. The magic number seems to be 64 degrees: They won’t come out until the soil is that temperature, according to two local experts.

The phenomenon: Soil in Cumberland County was 48 degrees over the weekend, said Ed Dix, a forester with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry. So the area still has till about late May or early June before the swarm, he said.

Adult cicadas are 1 to 1-1/2 inches long and have red eyes. Not to be confused with the more common annual cicadas, which look like huge, green flies, magicicadas are both smaller and much rarer.

“They’re definitely going to be noticeable,” said Timothy Abbey, of Penn State Cooperative Extension.

As daunting as billions of huge flies might seem, the bugs are mostly harmless.

Abbey said the insects are plant feeders and not much of a bother to crops. They don’t bite or damage property, but since females lay their eggs in the delicate twigs of deciduous trees, branches can break off and leaves might turn brown.

“But they’re not really a pest: They’re actually a beneficial thing when they come out,” Abbey said, as birds and small mammals like to snack on them.

The cicada way: These periodical cicadas have garnered the nickname “17-year locusts,” even though they’re not locusts, which are a type of grasshopper. When colonists settled in America, they hadn’t seen cicadas before and saw them as the locusts from the biblical plague, Dix said.

After the males emerge, they’ll begin to “sing” constantly. After about 10 days, mating will begin and females will deposit about 600 eggs. It’s a short party, and in just a few weeks, the adults will die and the hatchlings will return to the ground and restart the cycle.

But it is a big production, and the males’ song is loud and unmistakable. Dix said not to pay them too much mind.

“It’s just a bunch of 17-year-old males singing in a tree trying to find a mate,” he said matter-of-factly.

In York: The region the cicadas choose depends largely on how dense its woods are: The more trees, the more cicadas. Dix said areas east of the Susquehanna River have the most chance of a large influx.

“York County actually might have very little impact,” he said.

Their next return to York will be in 2021 in the form of Brood X, the largest of eight broods in the state.

Visit www.magicicada.org for maps and more information about the incoming cicadas.

Reported by MOLLIE DURKIN of The York Dispatch from YORK, PA. Reach her at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.

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Taking the blame for a groundhog

 Groundhog Club co-handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather predicting groundhog. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Groundhog Club co-handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather predicting groundhog. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)


An Ohio prosecutor who light-heartedly filed a criminal case against the Punxsutawney Phil said he may consider a pardon — after the animal’s handler took the blame for Phil’s rotten weather prediction.

Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, told The Associated Press on Monday that the animal rightly predicted six more weeks of winter last month, but he mistakenly announced an early spring because he failed to correctly interpret Phil’s “groundhog-ese.”

“I’m the guy that did it; I’ll be the fall guy. It’s not Phil’s fault,” Deeley said.

Butler County, Ohio, prosecutor Mike Gmoser told the AP that he’s reconsidering the charges in light of the new evidence and may issue a full pardon.

“Frankly, he is a cute little rascal, a cute little thing,” Gmoser said. “And if somebody is willing to step up to the plate and take the rap, I’m willing to listen.”

The Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, a borough about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, attracts worldwide attention each year. But the attention stretched well beyond Feb. 2 when Gmoser last week issued an indictment as winter-like weather continued across much of the nation even as spring began.

“Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design cause the people to believe that spring would come early,” Gmoser’s indictment said. The penalty? Death, Gmoser said, tongue firmly in cheek.

Reported by JOE MANDAK of the Associated Press from PITTSBURGH, Pa.

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How you can help Joey

Joey Duffy and his brother, Mick (4), play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their living room. Joey has myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a blood and bone marrow disorder.  (Submitted)

Joey Duffy and his brother, Mick (4), play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their living room. Joey has myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a blood and bone marrow disorder. (Submitted)

Just 2-and-a-half years old, Joey Duffy was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a blood and bone marrow disorder, in September.

To save his life, Joey needed a bone marrow transplant.

His parents, Tom and Maura Duffy, were not matches. Neither were his brothers, Tommy, 6, and Mick, 4.

Joey during his most recent hospitalization at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. (Submitted)

Joey during his most recent hospitalization at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. (Submitted)

While the Springettsbury Township family waited for a match to be found for Joey, they organized a Be the Match bone marrow drive. Be the Match is a national registry for bone marrow donations.

Then, the day after Thanksgiving, the Duffy family received the call they had waited for — a match had been found for Joey.

“We were getting ready to see family over the holiday weekend, and it was just a really happy moment,” said Maura Duffy. “It was a perfect match.”

The preparation: Joey had four rounds of outpatient chemotherapy and three days of inpatient chemotherapy.

He will go to Johns Hopkins Hospital Wednesday for more chemotherapy. The bone marrow transplant is set for March 28.

The family will stay at St. Casimir’s, the outpatient housing Johns Hopkins provides for bone marrow recipients and their families.

Recovery can be anywhere from four to eight weeks, and Joey’s mom will stay with him during the week while his dad will travel down for the weekends.

“He has been in the hospital literally his whole life, so this is nothing new,” Maura Duffy said.

Joey was born premature and stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit, and had been working with a doctor at Johns Hopkins since he was 6 months old, she said.

“Joey is a trouper,” she said. “He was a preemie and has been in the neonatal intensive care unit and he rolls with the punches. He does really, really well.”

Support: Juggling family life and trips to the hospital is the biggest challenge, she said, particularly when it means missing things like their older son’s birthday to be in the hospital.

“But we’ve got great friends and great family and lots of people out there supporting us,” Maura Duffy said. “Lots of people want to help, and it is amazing how good people can be.”

The Duffys and their friends have organized a 5K run and walk in Joey’s honor at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 20 at the new 5K course at John Rudy Park, 400 Mundis Race Road.

The fee to participate is $20, which includes a T-shirt for anyone who registers before Saturday. Anyone who registers after that will pay $20, but will not receive a shirt.

The cost to register the day of the race is $25, and all proceeds will go toward HelpHOPELive, an organization that distributes funds to families to help cover uninsured medical expenses.

Race packets can be picked up the night before the race from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. near the park at 5 Olde Hickory Road in Mount Wolf, or from 7 to 8 a.m. the day of the race at the park.

Anyone can visit www.helphopelive.com and type in a patient’s name to donate toward covering a family’s expenses.

For more information on the race, email kleinsc55@yahoo.com. To follow Joey’s progress, visit www.teamjoey.net.

Reported by CHELSEA SHANK of The York Dispatch from YORK, Pa.

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Students get on the ball — the yoga ball

Students in Robbi Giuliano's fifth grade class sit on yoga balls as they complete their assignments at Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, in West Chester, Pa.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Students in Robbi Giuliano’s fifth grade class sit on yoga balls as they complete their assignments at Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, in West Chester, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

In 11 years of teaching, ditching students’ desk chairs in favor of yoga balls is one of the best decisions Robbi Giuliano thinks she ever made.

Replacing regular seats with inflatable bouncers has raised productivity in her fifth-graders at Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School, making students better able to focus on lessons while improving their balance and core strength, she said.

“I have more attentive children,” Giuliano said. “I’m able to get a lot done with them because they’re sitting on yoga balls.”

Ball options:
The giant rubber spheres, also called stability balls, come in different sizes, colors and degrees of firmness. By making the sitter work to stay balanced, the balls force muscle engagement and increased blood flow, leading to more alertness.

Traditional classroom setups are being challenged as teachers nationwide experiment with yoga balls, footrests and standing desks, which give children outlets to fidget without disrupting class.

Stability balls, frequently used in yoga, Pilates and physical therapy, have even begun appearing in offices in the wake of recent studies stressing the dangers of sedentary work environments.

Giuliano began using the balls in her class in West Chester, a Philadelphia suburb, about three years ago after her husband mentioned how they increased productivity at the holistic wellness company where he worked.

Kids react: Student Ashley Hasson conceded that adjusting to her dark pink ball was tough at first.

“But once you get used to it, it’s not that hard because basically you’re just sitting down,” she said.

Another student, Kevin Kent, said the ball makes it easier for him to concentrate and keeps his back from getting stiff. Now, he said, sitting in a chair is “weird, because you’re all bent up.”

Ball rules: Some health experts cautioned against the possibility of student horseplay and falling off the balls. But Giuliano’s 24 students know they must keep their bottoms on the balls and feet on the floor at all times, though they can bounce and bob as much as they like.

The same goes for Dannielle Doran’s fourth-graders at Merion Elementary School in a nearby district, where misbehavior risks loss of the ball and a return to a four-legged seat.

“They like sitting on them so much, and they don’t want to lose that privilege,” Doran said. “It seems to almost … motivate better behavior.”

The balls are not mandatory in Doran’s or Giuliano’s classes, but Giuliano noted only one student in three years has opted to continue using a chair.

Parents have been supportive as well, voluntarily purchasing the $5 balls for their kids. Some even ended up buying balls for themselves to use at home and work, said Giuliano, who wants to spread the word to other teachers.

“I don’t like sitting on a chair all day … so I started sitting on a yoga ball, and I find I’m more alert,” Giuliano said. “And my message is to try it with your class and see if it works for you.”

___

Reported by KATHY MATHESON of the Associated Press from WEST CHESTER, Pa. Follow Matheson at http://www.twitter.com/kmatheson

Robbi Giuliano teaches her fifth grade class as they sit on yoga balls at  Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School  Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, in West Chester, Pa.  Giuliano says "I'm able to get a lot done with them because they're sitting on yoga balls."   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Robbi Giuliano teaches her fifth grade class as they sit on yoga balls at Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, in West Chester, Pa. Giuliano says “I’m able to get a lot done with them because they’re sitting on yoga balls.” (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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