ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A THIRD-GRADER?

Geist - - Endnotes - —Jill Man­drake

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

young

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.

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