A 5th-grader made a discovery about stuffed animals and germs. It landed her in a medical journal.

Gaby Zane isn't your average fifth-grader, and there are a lot of doctors who would agree.

Why? It all started with a science project that was influenced by her favorite stuffed animal, Sheena.


Gaby with her stuffed cat, Sheena. Hi, Sheena. Image via 9News.

Gaby's parents are both doctors. So when it came time for her fifth-grade science project, she got to thinking about what happens when kids end up in the hospital.

How could she help those kids?

"Kids probably get stressed that they're going to have to go through an operation," Gaby told Kyle Dyer of 9News. "Stuffed animals really help with staying calm, but they can carry lots of bacteria into the operating room."

Comforting and cute animals full of icky germs? Cue the light-bulb moment!

Gaby came up with a way to make operating rooms more sterile, especially for kids.

She grabbed some stuffed animals in her own home and discovered just how many germs they had by rubbing sterile swabs on them and taking culture samples.

"They had a lot of bacteria," she told 9News.

Cute on the outside, and also filthy on the outside. Image via 9News.

So ... she washed them. And it turns out that if you wash and dry your stuffed animals, you can prevent germs from spreading.

"When we washed them, they had a 94 percent decrease in bacteria," said Gaby. "Put them in a sealed plastic bag before you get to the operating room to make sure they stay sterile, and you'll be OK."

A 94% decrease is huge!

If Gaby's solution sounds simple, that's because it is.

But for people with already weakened immune systems, think of how big of an impact her discovery could make.

Gaby's mom, Dr. Murphy-Zane, loved the idea. It was right in line with what her hospital had been trying to do, too: minimize surgical-site infections.

"The push is on to decrease the bacterial load for the operating room ... not just people scrubbing in or wearing booties on their feet," Dr. Murphy-Zane told 9News. "We're trying to minimize traffic coming in and out of the O.R. and minimize materials coming into the room."

But because of Gaby's research, kids can now bring their stuffed animals into the O.R., too, without bringing germs along with them and risking their health.

This is a solid example of how simple ideas can go far.

Gaby's idea just keeps growing.

According to Bustle, her science project can now be found in the paper "Stuffed Animals in the Operating Room: A Reservoir of Bacteria With a Simple Solution," which was recently published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics. It's co-authored by Gaby, her mom, and some of her mom's colleagues. So cool.

Getting a scientific study published is no easy task. But Gaby, who is now 12, can mark it off her to-do list.

Now, excuse me while I go wash all of my things.

Bravo, Gaby! Bravo.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."