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Thumbs up: Stevenson University football players have been stopping by Mechanicsville Elementary in recent weeks to read to and with kindergarten and first-grade students on Fridays, part of an ongoing partnership between both schools. The Stevenson Football Reading Project benefits all the younger readers as it stimulates their interest in reading, expands their vocabulary and provides children with the individual attention that they crave, according to a reading specialist at the school. The players also participate in "brain breaks" where they do activities like stretching or listen to music with students.

Thumbs up: Author Jim Stempel's latest novel, a piece of Civil War historical fiction entitled "Albemarle," was recently nominated for the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Historical Fiction, given biennially by The Society of American Historians. The winner is expected to be announced Monday. The prize is awarded for historical fiction based on the particular work's contribution to historical understanding and authenticity. Stempel, of Union Bridge, said his interest in Civil War history can be traced to his childhood, and time spent in the area.

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Thumbs up: Ken Mihalyov and three other teachers at West Middle School dressed as "Teletubbies" last week, part of an incentive for students to raise money for the Cool Kids Campaign, a nonprofit that helps kids diagnosed with cancer. Students at West Middle had raised $4,179.17 as of Tuesday and about $20,000 over the past five years. The teachers agreed to wear the costumes once students hit their fundraising goal of $4,000 this year. West Middle began raising money for Wind for Change — a program that brings meteorologist Justin Berk to teach students a free weather lesson in exchange for donations to the Cool Kids Campaign — five years ago through a friendly competition between the school and its Westminster neighbor East Middle School. When the East Middle teacher retired, teachers at West tried to think of a creative way to spark interest in the fundraiser.

Thumbs up: About 80 kindergartners visited Winters Mill High School on Thursday to learn more about food and agriculture during Food for America Day, a program provided by Winters Mill High School's Future Farmers of America students. The kindergarteners are studying the science of living things, and the visit took what they learned in the classroom and applied it to real animals. About 25 FFA members presented their animals at Food for America day as part of their supervised agricultural experience which is required before getting a Chapter FFA Degree for the United States National FFA Organization.

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