ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A THIRD-GRADER?
According to the copyright page of A Mad Bird’s Life: A Division 6 Picture Guide to Canada’s Coolest Provincial Birds & Trees (Writers’ Exchange), “This book was created by Division 6, Mrs. Mehnert’s grade 3 class, at Thunderbird Elementary in the winter of 2014.” It’s both illuminating and delightful to read how primary school children view our biosphere. In this chapbook, each studentwriter focussed on a particular bird or tree and produced a page of illustrated text about it. The chosen trees have a colourful array of names: Red Spruce, White Spruce, Black Spruce, Red Oak, White Birch and Eastern White Pine. A student called Joanna wrote this haiku-like tribute to the White Spruce:
I’m a large tree with a narrow top My needles go in a spiral around the twig The needles smell really bad when they’re
Curiously, the tree most written about was the Tamarack (as student Ivan wrote, “its name is an Algonquin word/for the wood used for snowshoes”). In the bird department, the two hottest items were the chickadee and the gyrfalcon. I imagine the chickadee is popular because its birdsong is so pervasive. The gyrfalcon, meanwhile, is impressive because of its outright strength: it’s been known to take down a grey heron. A student called Jason wrote a poetic tribute to the gyrfalcon, part of which goes like this:
I’m the largest falcon in the world
I like to eat ptarmigan
I sometimes take baths in freezing water
A Mad Bird’s Life is one of a series of writing projects for inner-city kids, sponsored by The Writers’ Exchange. To learn more, check out their website at vancouverwe.com.