The incredible reason this inspiring teacher started collecting tires for her students.
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Nike's Made to Play

Tucked away in a remote village in the Fujian province of China, there is a school that is home to more than twice as many tires as students. And for good reason.

Lin with her students. All photos via Nike.

Tires dot the playground outside of the white, three-story Xianling Primary School — and it is surprisingly beautiful. Some tires are piled on top of each other, while others are tied loosely together. Most have been painted colorfully and are covered with cartoon characters.


While the scene may be unusual, it turns out these tires are there to let the kids explore their creativity, play, and be active. Because the tires come in all sizes and shapes, they can be assembled in multiple ways, enabling students to turn them into hula hoops, vaulting horses, swings, and even wheelbarrows. And as an added bonus: they don't cost the school anything at all.

"People lovingly call us 'the tire school,'" says PE teacher Meizhen Lin, who "discovered," almost by accident, this unconventional learning tool for her students.

Lin first got the idea eight years ago, when she began teaching at the school.

With limited funding and little equipment for sports, PE "classes" consisted of running around the playground with no real direction. This was partly because the school had never really had a PE teacher before.

Lin with her students.

The student body at Xianling Primary School is mostly made up of "left-behind children" — kids who live in rural areas with extended family while their parents work in urban centers.

"I am also from around Zianling, [so] I understand the difficult time these kids are going through," says Lin.  

Lin's father is a farmer and had barely earned enough to support his four kids, but he recognized that Lin was good at sports, so he worked extra hours so that she could go to college and earn a degree in physical education. Thanks to her dad's efforts and her hard work in school, Lin graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree in her chosen field in 1999, and started working as a PE teacher at the school.

However, because Xianling Primary School is located in such a remote area, it was not a prestigious posting for the newly qualified Lin — she wasn't sure if she'd like teaching there.

It didn't take her long to see herself in the kids though. In fact, teaching them made her recognize how fortunate she was to have broken the cycle of rural life. Now she was in a unique position to maybe help them do the same.

Lin cleaning and prepping old tires.

During one class, Lin remembers asking her students what their favorite toys were — but instead of a bunch of excited responses, all she got was total silence.

Her heart sank. Most of her students’ families simply couldn’t afford to buy any toys for their kids.

It was in that moment that Lin became determined to find a way to help these kids learn (and love) to play, using whatever resources she could find.

Later that same day, when driving home from work, she spotted a kid playing with an abandoned tire on the street. Thinking this might be a dangerous place for him to play, she pulled over and tried to persuade the kid to stop.

“The kid said, ‘But I like it, it's super fun to play with,’” Lin recalls.

That chance encounter gave her an idea.

“I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept thinking about what I could possibly do with the tires, if kids liked them so much.”

Lin started collecting abandoned tires from auto-repair shops in her village. She rolled the tires to the school, carefully cleaned them up, and then turned them into things that she could use in her PE classes, like a wheelbarrow.

To make the wheelbarrow, she used big, thick truck tires from trucks, put small wheels on the bottom and then attached elastic string on the sides. This way, one student could sit in the hollow of the tire while another student dragged it along by the string.

“My kids love the tire wheelbarrow I made them,” she says proudly. “They literally spring out of the classroom when the bell rings just to get to it.”

One of Lin's students riding in a tire wheelbarrow.

Since she started turning tires into toys, Lin's students smile a lot more. They’re also becoming more physically active and are becoming physically stronger.

“Kids used to not be able to stay in the sun for more than 20 minutes without complaining,” says Lin. “Now our 40-minute PE class feels like a breeze."

In fact, her creations are such a hit that the students are now helping Lin find more tires — and other reusable objects, such as water bottles and old clothes — around town to work with. The kids are also involved in each step of making new innovations — from designing and engineering to decorating.

Lin’s great work hasn't gone unnoticed. This year, she was one of 100 PE teachers in China who won Nike’s Active Schools Innovation Award.

This award, which was bestowed on her by Yao Ming, China’s legendary basketball player and former Houston Rockets team member, is given to PE teachers like Lin, who bring innovation to sports in schools. Speaking shortly after receiving the award, Lin could barely contain her excitement.

“I still can’t believe a bunch of tires brought me this honor,” she said.

Meizhen Lin with Yao Ming at Nike's Active Schools Innovation Award. Photo via Nike.

Her efforts earned her fame in her hometown and all across China. Nike created a short film of her teaching in school, which racked up 3 million views within just a few hours of being posted on Chinese social media.

But her new-found local fame won’t divert Lin from her passion to help her students find joy in sport and play.

When Lin first arrived at Xianling Primary school, she had only planned to work there for two years in order to meet the requirements needed to get a promotion and a new job elsewhere. But now, she has no intention of leaving.

“I just don’t think any promotion could compare with these kids," she says. It is clear that she still has a few more tricks up her sleeve for getting the kids moving.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When we think of what a Tyrannosaurus looked like, we picture a gargantuan dinosaur with a huge mouth, formidable legs and tail, and inexplicably tiny arms. When we picture how it behaved, we might imagine it stomping and roaring onto a peaceful scene, single-handedly wreaking havoc and tearing the limbs off of anything it can find with its steak-knife-like teeth like a giant killing machine.

The image is probably fairly accurate, except for one thing—there's a good chance the T. rex wouldn't have been hunting alone.

New research from a fossil-filled quarry in Utah shows that Tyrannosaurs may have been social creatures who utilized complex group hunting strategies, much like wolves do. The research team who conducted the fossil study and made the discovery include scientists from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colby College of Maine, and James Cook University in Australia.

The idea of social Tyrannosaurs isn't entirely new—Canadian paleontologist Philip Curie floated the hypothesis 20 years ago upon the discovery of a group of T. rex skeletons who appeared to have died together—but it has been widely debated in the paleontology world. Many scientists have doubted that their relatively small brains would be capable of such complex social behavior, and the idea was ridiculed by some as sensationalized paleontology PR.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.