Casi 6 Reading Passages


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Reading Passages

The History of Numbers by Denise Schmandt-Besserat 3

Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat 6

Trash Attack! by Candace Savage 9

Morning Girl by MichaelDorris 14

The Gift of a Microscope byJ. McDonnell 18

The Visitor by Karleen Bradford 22

Tomb Decorations 28

Peacocks and Bandaids by Nazneen Sodiq 50

Building for the Environment by Mary Beth Leatherdale 54

Letter from the Future by Eric Lund 37

With only ten digits... we can make up any number we want.


from The History of Counting

by Denise Schmandt-Besserat


A number is a word that expresses "how many."

Counting is reciting numbers in order. Counting the ducklings on the pond, for example, means reciting, "One, two, three, four, five..." as each duckling swims by. The last number tells how many ducklings are on the pond.

Surprising as it may seem, people did not always have numbers. For most of their time on Earth, in fact, modern humans had no numbers. Imagine not having numbers. What would life be like without counting?

Today, numbers play an important role. We use them in many ways: they show the price of things; tell the hours of the day and the days of the month; mark the houses on the street; make it easy to find the right bus or dial the

telephone; identify cars; and tell the players of a team apart.

People of most areas of the world--including North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia--share the same efficient counting system. With only these ten digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9--we can make up any number we want.


Signs to represent numbers are called numerals. The Sumerians had distinct signs to represent 1, 10, 60, 600, 3600, and 36 000. The remaining numbers were shown by repeating these signs. For instance, the sign for I was a long wedge, and the numbers 2 through 9 were shown by two to nine wedges. The number 10 was a circular sign, and 20 through 50 were shown by two to five circular signs. The number 60 was a large wedge. In Sumer, reading a numeral like 23 meant counting how many circles or wedges were included in the numeral.

The numbers 10 and 60 were special in Sumer, because they were bases. Bases are numbers used to create higher numbers. The Sumerian large numbers were multiplications of these numbers: 10 x 60 = 600, 60 x 60 = 3600, 60 x 60 x 10 = 36 000, Why did the Sumerians give such importance to 60? Because this number has a unique advantage: it can be divided equally in many ways. The number 60 is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, and 60. This is why we have hours of 60 minutes and minutes of 60 seconds. If one hour were divided into ten minutes, it could be divided equally in only four ways: by 1, 2, 5, and 10.

Base 10 Counting

The system of counting we use today has one base: 10. In this system, called decimal, after the Latin word for "ten"---large numbers are multiplications of 10. For example, 10 x 10 = 100, and 10 x 10 x 10 = 1000.

While the Sumerians' system of counting was remarkable for their time, it did have a drawback: it had no zero. In other words, the Sumerians had no sign to indicate "no value." They just left a space.

This was unclear and led to difficulties in reading numbers. You can see for yourself. Look at the number 204 501. How easy is it to read without the zeros--2 4 5 1?

Although the shape of the numerals changed, the Sumerians' counting system itself was used for centuries. The Babylonians were still using it two thousand years later, around 600 B.C.

Why was such a complicated counting system used for so long? Perhaps because it is easier to follow old ways of thinking than to come up with new ways and innovate.

"You know, I don't believe that owl realizes he's an owl. I believe he thinks he's a human being."

Owls in the Family.      

by Farley Mowat

Owls in the Family tells the story of a boy who raises two orphaned owls, whom he names "Wol" and "Weeps. "In this excerpt from the novel, Billy tries to teach the owls to fly.

By the middle of June, when they were three months   old, my new pets had reached full size. Wol was a little bigger than Weeps and stood about two feet (60 cm) high; but his wingspread was nearly five feet (1.5 m) across! The claws of both were about an inch (2.5 cm) long and as sharp as needles; and their big hooked beaks looked strong enough to open a tin can. Weeps was a normal owl colour, sort of a mottled brown, but Wol stayed almost pure white, with just a few black markings on his feathers. At night he looked like a ghost.

Although they were grown up now, neither of the owls seemed to know what his wings were for. Because they saw us walking around, they seemed to think they had to walk around too. Maybe if I had been able to fly, they would have learned to fly a lot sooner; but the way things were, both owls tried to do what we kids did. They saw us climbing trees, and so they took to climbing trees.

It was pretty silly to watch Wol climbing. He used to really climb. First he'd jump up to a low branch and then he'd use his

beak and his claws to half-lift himself and half-shinny to the next branch. My pigeons used to circle around sometimes and watch him. They must have thought he was crazy. People sometimes thought so too. One day Wol was climbing a poplar in our front yard when a man and a woman stopped on the sidewalk and watched him, with their mouths open.

Finally the man said to me: 'What on earth's the matter with that bird? Why doesn't he fly to the top of the tree?"

"He can't fly, sir," I replied. "He never learned how."

The man looked at me as if I were crazy too, and walked off without another word.

The day Wol actually learned to fly was one I'll remember for a long time. He had climbed a cottonwood in the back yard and had got way out on a thin little branch, and couldn't get back. You never saw an owl look so unhappy. He kept teetering up and down on the end of the branch, and Hoo-hoo-HOOING at me to come and get him out of his fix.

Dad and Mother came out to see what was going on, and they started to laugh; because who ever heard of a bird that couldn't get itself down out of a tree? But when people laughed at Wol, it hurt his feelings and upset him.

What with the laughter, and the fact that it was suppertime and he was hungry, Wol got careless. Finally he teetered a little too far forward and lost his balance.

"Hoo-HOOOOOO!" he shrieked as he bounced through the branches toward the ground. Then, all of a sudden, he spread his wings; and the next thing any of us knew, he was flying ... well, sort of flying. Not having done it before, he didn't really know what he was doing, even then.

You could tell he was just as surprised as we were. He came swooshing out of the tree like a rocket, and he seemed to be heading straight for me; but I ducked and he pulled up and went shooting back into the air again. He was still hoo-hooing like mad when he stalled and slid back, downward, tail-first, and hit the ground with an awful thump.

By that time I was laughing so hard I had to lie on the grass and hold my stomach. When I looked up at last, it was to see Wol stomping into his cage. He was furious with all of us, and I couldn't persuade him to come out again until the next day.

At supper that night, my father said, 'You know, I don't believe that owl realizes that he's an owl. I believe he thinks he's a human being. You'll have to educate him, Billy."

It wasn't quite as bad as that. Wol eventually did learn to fly pretty well, but he never seemed to like flying, or to trust it. He still preferred to walk wherever he was going.

Weeps never learned to fly at all. I tried to teach him how by throwing him off the garage roof, but he wouldn't try. He would just shut his eyes, give a hopeless kind of moan, and fall like a rock without even opening his wings. Weeps didn't believe he could fly, and that was that.

At first glance, an empty milk carton may seem like a useless piece of junk, but look again!  

Trash Attack !  

by Candace Savage.

You are about to read something disgusting. In just one year, most people throw away about 80 cans full of garbage. Eighty big stinking garbage cans, cram-jammed, packed to the brim.

We're not talking about 80 cans for each family. It's 80 for each member of the family. Eighty garbage cans, placed side by side, would probably cover the floor of your living room.

The things we put in the garbage originally came from the Earth. Every time you throw away a piece of paper, for example, you are throwing away a tiny bit of forest. Maybe it was a twig where a bird liked to sing or a leafy branch that made shade for a wood violet.

The next time you go to throw away a piece of paper, think about all the energy it took to make a tree into that sheet of paper.
Trash Times-Table.

To find out how many garbage cans you may have filled in your life, take your age and multiply by 80; or look up the answer on this chart. You can also use the chart to do a Trash Tally for your parents or friends. How much garbage will you likely create if you live for 80 years?

The Solutions.

"Bigger!" "Faster!" and "More!" are not words that we can live by. Our throw-away habits are changing the Earth too much, too quickly. The good news is that we don't have to do it anymore.

There are three words that will help us to live in a better way. They are called the "3 Rs": Reduce! Reuse! and Recycle!


Reduce means to buy less and throw less away. The best way to cut
down on the amount we waste is to stop buying things we don't need in the first place. This means that we have to pay attention when we go to the store.

Packages--the bags, boxes, bubbles, buckets, jars, and fins that things come inmate a big source of waste. If you sorted the garbage in your trash can, about half of it would be packaging. In a year, you may fill 40 garbage cans with packaging alone.


The second-best way to cut down on garbage is as easy as the first. Instead of throwing things out, reuse them.

All kinds of things can be saved and used agalnmyogurt tubs, jam jars, plastic bags, old rags, gift wrap, buttons, nails, wire, and string. Torn jeans can be mended or cut off to make a pair of shorts. Broken bicycles can be fixed. Clothes and toys that you've outgrown can be given to younger friends, or to someone else who needs them. You might even be able to sell them at a yard sale or second-hand store.

Sometimes, in order to reuse things, we have to see them in a new way. At first glance, an empty

Rules for Reducing

DO buy large-sized packages. (One big package makes less garbage than two small ones. It also usually costs less.)

DO shop for quality. Buy things that are made to last.

DO rent or share things you seldom use.

DO buy things "loose" instead of in packages.

DON'T buy things you don't really want or need.

DON'T buy things that can't be fixed.

DON'T buy things that were made to throw away, such as disposable cameras and pens that won't take refills.

DON'T eat in restaurants that use disposable dishes.

DON'T buy anything that has too much packaging.

A milk carton can be reused as a bird feeder.

milk carton may seem like a useless piece of junk, but look again! With a little work, it could become a plant pot or a bird feeder.

Reuse and Win.

Hold a contest at school to see who can make the following things out of materials saved from the garbage.

Shop at second-hand stores for silly prizes. Have fun!

• the best costume

• the most interesting toy

• the most enjoyable game

• the most useful item

• the most tuneful musical instrument


Recycling: Saving used materials and sending them off to be remade into useful goods. Reduce: Buying less and throwing less away.

Reusing: Fixing and changing things we already have so that we can use them again.


If you can't leave the garbage at the store and can't use it anymore, then recycle. Recycling is a kind of manufacturing that turns garbage, such as newspapers, aluminum cans, and glass jars, into things we can use.

Thinking about a big problem like garbage sometimes makes us feel very small. "People are throwing things out everywhere, all the time," you may think. "How can one little person change it all?"

But what you do is important. Many people, working together, can make things change. You are not alone. Millions of people, all around the world, are working to keep the Earth green and growing.

Refuse to Make Refuse.

Here are some things that you can do to make recycling work.

• If recycling has begun in your community, find out how it works. Your friends and neighbours may know. If not, call city hall.      

• If there is no recycling where you   live, maybe it's time there was.     Talk to your parents, friends, teachers, and group leaders.

• When you prepare materials for recycling, follow the rules carefully. Rinse containers. Remove staples and paper clips from paper. Tie paper with twine, not plastic cord.

• Look for recycled paper and other products in the store.

• Choose food in paper packages instead of plastic. Egg cartons and cardboard trays are often made from recycled paper.

• Try not to buy products that cannot be recycled.

Suddenly I saw two tiny girls looking back.

Morning Girl.

by Michael Dorris.

The water is never still enough. Just when I can almost see my face, when my eyes and my nose and my mouth are about to settle into a picture I can remember, a fish rises for air or a leaf drops to the surface of the pond or Star Boy tosses a pebble into my reflection and I break into shining pieces. It makes no sense to him that I'm curious about what people see when they look at me.

"They see you," he said, as if that answered my question. We were searching for ripe fruit on the trees behind our house.

"But what is me?" I asked him. "I wouldn't recognize myself unless I was sitting on the bottom of a quiet pool, looking up at me looking down."

'You are ... you." He lost his patience and walked away to find his friend Red Feathers.

But what did 'you" mean? I knew my hands very well. I study them when I trim my nails with the rough edge of a broken shell, making them smooth and flat. I could spread my fingers and press them into wet sand to see the shape they leave. Once I tried to do that with my head, but all I got was a big shallow hole and dirty hair.

I knew the front of my body, the bottoms of my feet. I knew the colour of my arms - tan as the inside of a yam after the air had dried it - and if I stretched my tongue I could see its pink tip.

'Tell me about my face," I asked Mother one day when we were walking along the beach.

She stopped, turned to me in confusion. "What about your face?"

"Is it long and wrinkled, like Grandmother's, or round as a coconut, like Star Boy's? Are my eyes wise like yours or ready to laugh like Father's? Are my teeth crooked as the trunks of palm trees?"

Mother cocked her head to the side and made lines in her forehead. "I don't think I've ever looked at you that way," she said. "To me you've always been yourself, different from anyone else."

"But I want to know," I begged her. Mother nodded. "I remember that feeling. Try this." She took my hand and guided it to my neck. 'Touch," she told me. "Very softly. No, close your eyes and think with your fingers. Now compare." She placed my other hand on her face, the face I knew better than any other.

I traced the line of her chin. Mine was smaller, pointier. I followed her lips with one thumb, my own with the other. Hers seemed fuller.

"Your mouth is wider," I cried, unhappy with myself. "That's because I'm smiling, Morning Girl."

And suddenly my mouth was wide, too, and my cheeks were hills on either side. Next I found the lashes of our eyes, then moved above them. Even without watching, I could see the curved shape of Mother's dark brows. They made her look surprised at everything, surprised and delighted.

"Mine are straight," I said.

"Like your grandfather's."

He had always looked tired. I liked surprised better.

"Now, here." Mother cupped my fingers around the tip of my nose. I could feel the breath rush in and out of my nostrils. I could smell the fruit I had picked with Star Boy.

Finally we moved to the ears, and in the dark they were as delicate and complicated as the inside of a spiral shell, but soft.

"Our ears are the same," I told Mother, and she felt with her own hand, testing and probing every part.

"You're right." She sounded as pleased as I was.

I opened my eyes and memorized her ears. At least that part I would now recognize.

"Did this help you?" she asked me. "Do you know Morning Girl any better?"

"Oh yes," I said. "She has a chin like a starfish and brows like white clouds on the horizon. Her nose works. Her cheeks swell into mountains when she smiles. The only thing right about her is her ears."

Mother covered her mouth, the way she does when she laughs and doesn't want anyone to stare. 'That's my Morning Girl," she said. 'That's her exactly."

The next day, as I was getting up and Star Boy was about to go to sleep on his mat, I leaned close to him.

"What does my chin look like?" I demanded.

He blinked, frowned, made his eyes small while he decided. "A starfish," he finally said.

I was very worried until I saw he was making a joke.

"I heard Mother telling Father," he confessed when I pinched him. "But I don't know." He rubbed his arm, showed me where I had made it turn red. "To me it looks like the end of the rock that juts out into the ocean near the north end of the island. The one they call 'The Giant Digging Stick.'

'You don't have to be curious about your face," I whispered. "All you have to do is wait for a jellyfish to float on shore and get stranded when the tide leaves. Sometimes I see one and I think it's you, buried in the sand up to your neck."

When I went outside, Father was sitting on a log, fixing a shark's tooth to use as a hook at the end of his fishing lance.

"Who is this?" he asked the lance. 'Who is this with my wife's ears stuck onto the side of her head?"

"You laugh at me, too," I said. "But why is it so strange to want to know what everyone else already knows? Why should my own face be a secret from me?"

"There is a way," Father said kindly, and motioned me to stand beside him. He knelt down so that we would be the same size. "Look into my eyes," he told me. "What do you see?"

I leaned forward, stared into the dark brown circles, and it was like diving into the deepest pools. Suddenly I saw two tiny girls looking back. Their faces were clear, their brows straight as canoes, and their chins as narrow and clean as lemons. As I watched, their mouths grew wide. They were pretty.

"Who are they?" I couldn't take my eyes off those strange new faces. "Who are these pretty girls who live inside your head?"

"They are the answer to your question," Father said. "And they are always here when you need to find them."


It takes millions and millions of them just to cover the head of a pin.

The Gift of a Microscope

by J. McDonnell

There are many living things that are too small for us to see if we use our eyes alone. These tiny living things are called microbes. Most microbes have just one cell. There are different kinds of microbes, including plants, animals, moulds, yeasts, and bacteria.

Let's just suppose for a moment that someone gave you a microscope as a present. What kinds of these tiny living things called microbes could you see?

You could look at ... .

Small Plants and Animals "

You have probably seen plants growing in a green layer on top of ponds or lakes. This layer of plants, called algae, is made up of billions of cells all growing together. But you could use your microscope to see just one cell.

You could also look at a drop of pond water under your microscope and see very small

If you use your microscope to look at pond water, you will see protozoa, the microbes illustrated here.
animals. These animals are not like the ones you are used to seeing. They have no feet or arms or heads. These animals, called protozoa, are only one cell in size. They swim in water and eat things that are even smaller than they are!

Let's have a look at some other microbes ....

Fuzzy Moulds.  

All of us have seen mould. It is the fuzzy green, blue, or grey spots we sometimes see on fruit, bread, or cheese. What we see with our eyes are many cells of mould in clumps. Under your microscope, you would soon notice that the fuzzy mould looks like a mat of threads. Each thread is made up of one or more mould cells.

When you see mould growing on food, it is in the process of spoiling that food. But not all mould is bad. Moulds grow on dead leaves and trees and help them to decay and create new rich soil so other plants may grow.

Moulds also can be made into medicines that we use to fight disease. These are called antibiotics.

Perhaps the most famous of all antibiotics is penicillin. It was discovered in the 1940s. With this medicine, made by a mould, we are able to fight many diseases.
Useful Yeasts.

People have used yeasts for thousands of years, but it was just over a hundred years ago that the first yeast cells were seen under a microscope. It was then we learned that these microbes turn dough into bread and grape juice into wine. With your microscope, you can see what yeasts look like!

Millions of Bacteria.

Even smaller than yeasts and moulds are bacteria. There are many different kinds.

Some bacteria cause diseases in animals and plants. Bacteria are at work when you get a cavity in a tooth or an infection from a cut. And if you leave your lunch on the counter for a few days, bacteria will be working hard just like the moulds do to spoil it.

Still, just as we use yeast to help us make some food, so too do we use bacteria. Cheese and yogurt are made by bacteria growing in milk. Pickles, sauerkraut, and certain kinds of salami are all made with the help of bacteria.

Yeast is found in bread and wine. Yeast cells have little bumps, or buds, on their sides. The buds get bigger and bigger until they form new yeast cells.

Bacteria grow in foods such as cheese and yogurt. They have different shapes.

Under your microscope, many bacteria will look like little balls and short sticks. It takes millions and millions of them just to cover the head of a pin.

A New World of Living Creatures.

It's been fun looking through our imaginary microscope. It has opened up a vast new world of living creatures. We have learned how certain foods are made, why plants and animals decay, and what can cause and prevent disease. Pretty neat gift, the microscope.

Its body and head were covered in greasy black oil, and it was frozen fast in the ice.

The Visitor by Karleen Bradford

"There go some more mallards flying south, Dad. Winter's coming for sure." Roberta stood at the big picture window in her living room, looking out across Georgian Bay toward Lake Huron itself. A V of ducks was flying low across the water. The lights of an oil tanker could just be seen in the gathering dusk. It was early November. Snow had not yet come to this part of Ontario, but it was very cold and raining heavily.

"Ber! I'm glad I'm not out there." Roberta shivered as she climbed the stairs and got ready for bed.

During the night, the temperature dropped even more. When Roberta went out early the next morning, everything was covered with glistening ice. Even their own little cove had frozen over. As she walked toward it to investigate, she cupped her mouth in her hands and breathed hard to warm up her fingers. Her breath came out in frosty little puffs. She hopped a few steps to keep her toes from freezing. As she drew near a marshy spot by the shore, she saw something dark among the reeds. "That's funny," she said out loud, "that looks like a duck!"

She walked up to it curiously, expecting with each step she took that it would fly away. It lay perfectly still, however, and when she reached it, she could see why. Its body and head were covered in greasy black oil,   and it was frozen fast in the ice. At first Roberta thought it was dead, but when she touched it, it made a feeble attempt to fly. Gently Roberta slid   her hands underneath the duck and started   freeing the feathers, one by one. The duck struggled from time to time as Roberta worked, but it was growing weaker. When she finally had it loose, she cradled it carefully in both hands and ran back to the house.

"Mom, look what I've found!"   she cried as she kicked the back door with her foot. Roberta's mother opened the door and she rushed straight through to the kitchen. "It's a mallard, Mom, and it's nearly dead. I found it frozen in the ice."

"What in the world has it got all over it?" her mother asked, looking at the duck in alarm.

"Oil," Roberta answered in disgust. "Some big globs have been coming ashore since the tanker spill last week."

'What are you going to do with it, Roberta?" Her mother grabbed a cloth and started mopping at the dripping oil and water on the floor.

"I'll have to clean it off somehow, if it's going to live, but that's an awfully hard job. Remember that program we saw on television the other night? It was about those people who were using detergents to remove oil from seabirds they had rescued off the coast of England. They said that a weak mixture of detergent and warm water worked best. It's after you get them cleaned up that you have to watch out, though," she continued. "If they don't get their natural oil back, they still won't live. Their feathers won't be waterproof, and they'll either get waterlogged and drown, or freeze to death."

Roberta held the duck while her mother mixed some dishwashing liquid and warm water in a large bucket. Then, holding the duck as firmly and as carefully as she could, Roberta lowered it into the water. The duck struggled violently, with a new burst of energy, but Roberta held on. She worked away at the feathers with her fingers, washing them off and smoothing them down. When at last she had got off as much of the oil as she could, she lifted the duck out and wrapped it in a big old towel that her mother had brought her.

"Let's take it and put it down in that pen that Dad made , for the Mitchells' dog when we kept him last summer," she said. "It's good and big and has a neat little house at one end that I can fill with straw."

In a short time, the duck was nestled into   the bed of straw and was lying quietly. "I  guess that's all we can do for it now,"   Roberta said, but she continued to crouch down and peer in at the duck through the wire.

The next morning Roberta was up and out at the duck pen before her mother and father were awake. She knelt down to look. The duck was lying as she had left it, the dish of water beside it still full. The corn she had scattered around was untouched. Roberta walked slowly back to the house.

At school that day, she found it hard to keep her mind on her work. When the three-thirty bell rang, she was the first one out. She ran all the way home and arrived at the duck pen out of breath. The duck was up and pecking at the corn! As Roberta watched, it drank a bit of water and then settled down to groom its feathers. First it poked sharply with its bill at the oil sac hidden beneath the feathers on its back, just under the curl of its dark green tail. Then it drew its bill up around the curl, to get the bill well coated with oil. Next it preened its feathers carefully, one by one, coating them again with its own natural oil. Roberta watched in delight for a few moments and then ran for the house.

"It's going to be all right, Mom! Mom! It's really going to be all right!" Roberta's mother came running out, and together they watched the duck working away at its feathers.

Two weeks later, it was a very different duck that strutted up and down the pen, quacking angrily for its corn whenever Roberta was late. The dull and bedraggled feathers had recovered their   sheen, and the duck had put on weight. The brown and grey body shone sleekly. The proud green head gleamed in the weak wintry sunlight.

The white around its neck and the bright blue patches on its wings stood out brightly and clearly.

"Doesn't the duck look great, Dad?" Roberta beamed as she showed it off to her father one afternoon. "It comes running to me as soon as it sees me in the morning, and it almost eats out of my hand. Pretty soon it'll be so tame it'll probably follow me around like a real pet!"

"Roberta," her father answered seriously, 'you're going to have to let the duck go very soon."

Roberta looked away quickly. "I know," she answered, with a sudden hollow feeling in her chest. "I've been thinking about that." She turned away from the pen and scuffed at the gravel under her feet.

The sun went behind a cloud at that moment and Roberta pulled her collar around her ears. The wind suddenly had a colder bite to it, and the smell of snow was in the air.

"If we wait any longer, it will be too late for the duck to fly south," Roberta's father continued quietly. "We've got to let it loose before it forgets completely how to fend for itself."

"I know," Roberta answered again slowly, "but how can we be sure that it'll survive? We don't even know for certain that its feathers are completely waterproofed again."

"We'll move the pen down to the shore so that most of the run is in the water. It's light enough so that if we each lift one side we can walk it down slowly, with the duck still inside it. Then we'll see how it does in the water."

The next day they came out to check again on the duck. It was swimming happily around in the small square of water. As they watched, a V of ducks flew by, calling to each other. The duck in the pen seemed to hear and understand. It grew more and more excited, swimming back and forth and answering the passing ducks. As they disappeared out over the bay, it flew against the wire mesh, beating its wings desperately in its efforts to get out.

'We're going to have to let it go, Roberta," her father said.

Roberta turned to look at her father. She felt almost as desperate as the duck. "It seems to be all fight again, Dad," she said, "but how can we be sure?"

'We can't, Roberta, but you've done your best. There's nothing more you can do for it."

Roberta reached for the latch of the pen, hesitated a moment, then flung it open. In a flurry of feathers, the duck was out and flying a bit shakily at first, but soon its wing beats were strong and steady. It flew straight down the bay, heading south, and then it was gone. Her duck was free once more.

Tomb Decorations.

Finished at Last.

After all the years of building work, everything is ready. Rich treasures to be placed alongside the Pharaoh have been lovingly created, and the Pharaoh himself has been mummified. Carefully, deep inside the pyramid, a worker puts the last stones in place, making sure that he closes off completely the Pharaoh's chamber from the outside world. Within, the Pharaoh wants to begin his journey through the Underworld.

Welcome to the Afterlife.

Ancestor figures line the walls of a tomb in the city of Monte Alban, Mexico. They are waiting to welcome a buried person to the world of the deed. These paintings were made by the Zapotec people, who lived at Monte Alban between A.D. 100 and 900.

Royal Standard.

This panel shows rulers feasting and farmers presenting them with gifts of sheep and cattle. It was buried in a royal grave at Ur, the capital city of Sumer, a powerful kingdom which is now part of Iraq. Over 2000 graves have been discovered there. Sixteen of them contain the remains of kings and queens, dating from 2600-2500 B.C., along with many wonderful treasures, such as a helmet made from the beautiful metal, electrum.

  Some of the world's most amazing works of art have been found in tombs. They have been hidden away underground, where no one can admire them or wonder at the skill of the workers who made them. To many people today, this might seem an odd thing to do, but it made sense to people living in the past.

In ancient civilizations, a tomb was a home where a dead person would live for evermore. Naturally they wanted it to look as good as any house above ground. They employed the most skillful artists to cover the walls of their tombs with paintings and asked the best craftworkers to make clothes, jewellery, and furniture. Often, wall paintings and objects put in the tombs were finely decorated with lifelike scenes. These may also have been designed to work sympathetic magic, that is, to try and make the good things of life happen in the afterlife by showing them in the paintings.

Tomb decorations and furnishings almost always carried messages. They reflected the religious beliefs of the person buried in the tomb and identified his or her rank or occupation and lifestyle. The tombs of rulers were often decorated with royal symbols, while warriors were usually buried with their swords.

Decorated Doorway.

A couple holding hands, and two graceful oryx (wild antelope) decorate a tomb entrance at Hill, in south-east Arabia. The hunters and farmers who lived there around 2500 B.C. buried their dead in large communal tombs, made of carefully cut and shaped stone. Archaeologists have found many fragments of pottery and stone vessels inside the tombs. They have also found the remains of tall mud- brick towers used for storage, or possibly for defence.

Leisure and Pleasure.

Under a checkerboard ceiling, an Etruscan family and their friends enjoy a pleasant meal together. They are entertained by a musician playing a double flute. This burial chamber at Tarquinia, in Italy, is known as the Tomb of the Leopards. It was beautifully decorated with wall paintings around 400 B.C. The bodies buried there would have been arranged on couches, just like the diners shown in the painting.

For a Nomad Chief.

Long-horned goats prance energetically across a saddle cover of woollen felt and leather. The cover was buried in the tomb of a nomad chief at Pazyryk in the Altai Mountains of Siberia, around 400 B.C. Textiles were among nomads' most prized possessions. They were light and easy to carry as the nomads moved around. Textiles usually rot away, but the cloth and leather items buried at Pazyryk were preserved because the tombs were frozen by the bitter Siberian winters soon after they were made.

Breaking the Code.

The Egyptians used a form of picture writing known as hieroglyphs on important monuments and tombs. There were around 1000 different hieroglyphic symbols. Each stood for an object, an idea, or a sound. Only priests and specially trained scribes could read them. The Egyptians continued to use hieroglyphs for sacred inscriptions, but they developed two simpler ways of writing for everyday use. After the end of the Egyptian era, knowledge of how to read hieroglyphs was lost. Then, in 1789, a slab of rock, known as the Rosetta Stone, was discovered. On it was an inscription in three languages, one of which was hieroglyphs, the second everyday Egyptian, and the third ancient Greek. Using the Greek letters as a key, French scholar Jean-Francois Champollion worked out what the hieroglyphs meant in 1822.

That wooden beat controlled Jaya completely, her mind and her body.

Peacocks and Bandaids.  

by Nazneen Sadiq.

"Jaya!" rang out Rekha's voice.

Everyone froze in position. They looked like birds halted in flight. Jaya could feel a cold trickle of sweat roll down her arm.

She waited in misery as Rekha padded up on silent feet.

"Your fingers are stiff like iron pipes." Rekha's face was stern with accusation.

"I know," mumbled Jaya, embarrassed because the others were watching.

"Watch," commanded Rekha. She brought her arms up to her midriff slightly extended. Her fingers flexed and curled. It was magic. Rekha could transform her hands into the wings of a butterfly, the petals of an opening flower, or a cup to drink water from. Her slim fingers swayed in front of Jaya, who watched them, hypnotized.

"Remember," chanted Rekha, "you will be using your hands to tell a story."

Everyone was familiar with the endless drill. The stick that rose and fell with precision sounded the beat on the wooden block. The wooden beat controlled Jaya

completely, her mind and her body. It told her when to move from one posture to another. Her obedience to it--to the entire art of the dance - was going to make her, a few years from now, a perfect Bharata Natyam dancer. Till then, Rekha would carry on nagging, frowning, stamping her incredibly high-arched feet, and Jaya would just have to put up with it.

"Ta TAI TAI Ta" rang out again in the room, and the six girls started all over again. Jaya stood in the middle of the front row, her muscles quivering with the strain. A curve extended from the tip of her fingers to her toes, held in place by sheer willpower. She wondered whether it had ever been like this for Rekha. Probably not, she decided. Rekha could turn even something like sitting cross-legged on the floor into a graceful ceremony.

Jaya struggled out of the ankle-fitted pants and pulled on her jeans. She carefully removed the loose white cotton tunic and slid her floppy sweatshirt over her head. Throwing everything into her bag, she left the change room and walked out to meet her mother.

"How was your class, Jaya?" Her mother's eyes questioned her sharply as she climbed into the car.

"I don't know, Mom. Everything has to be so perfect,"Jaya sighed.

"It will come, Jaya. It takes years." Mrs. Gopal's voice softened sympathetically.

"But I want to be like Rekha. If I could just have her hands," moaned Jaya.

"Jaya, Jaya, something that has survived for three thousand years cannot be learned so quickly!"

"But we don't go quickly. We repeat everything a hundred times.

"Then you'll get it," concluded Mrs. Gopal, and Jaya knew the whining session was over.

The next day, Jaya was walking to French class when Mrs. Cox, her English teacher, stopped her.

"Jaya, do you remember the essay about hobbies that you

wrote last term?" asked Mrs. Cox.

"Yes," replied Jaya. What was Mrs. Cox getting at?

"Are you still attending those, er, classes?" said Mrs. Cox.

"You mean the Bharata Natyam classes? Yes," replied Jaya, rolling her r's over the Indian name.

"Oh, excellent. Then there is something we must discuss. See me after school, please." And she walked away.

What's with Mrs. Cox anyway? Jaya wondered. Why did she look so pleased? It hadn't been a particularly difficult essay; Jaya had got an A for it. She remembered Mrs. Cox had put down some comment about her essay being informative.

French was not easy for Jaya. And to make matters worse, she shared a table with Michael Miller, the smartest boy in the class. As she stumbled through the reading test, she knew that Michael was sitting there thinking she was a dummy. His confidence always rubbed her the wrong way. Madame Marcoux asked her to read again. Michael's cool grey eyes seemed to be saying, What a bore!

Gym seemed to take forever. When the bell rang, everyone dashed to the lockers to change - everyone except Jaya, who walked toward the staff room.

"Is Mrs. Cox here?"Jaya stuck her head into the staff room.

"Come on in, Jaya," came Mrs. Cox's voice.

Jaya stepped nervously into the room. Mrs. Cox and a bunch of kids were sitting around. Michael Miller was one of them.

"Jaya." Mrs. Cox patted the chair beside her.

Jaya sat down.

"Jaya, everyone here is part of the graduation entertainment committee," started Mrs. Cox.

“Yes, Mrs. Cox," murmured Jaya politely.

'Well, the Grade 6s and 7s will have a chance to contribute some entertainment. There will be a flute recital and other music, and I was wondering whether you could give a demonstration of your classical dancing?" She beamed at Jaya.

"Oh, well, you see, Mrs. Cox, I've only been studying for one year, and I don't know if I can," gulped Jaya in surprise. "You see," she continued, remembering Rekha's words, "you have to become very accomplished before your first public performance."

"Jaya, I think it would be a fascinating experience for all of us. Can you think about it?" Mrs. Cox persisted. "I have to speak to my teacher. If she says yes, then maybe I can, replied Jaya, conscious that Michael was staring at her. I'll bet he thinks I can't do anything, she thought to herself.

"Please do, Jaya, and let me know. I will be waiting," Mrs. Cox replied.

Although day-to-day life is very comfortable, we pay a high price in the long term.

Building for the Environment.

by Mary Beth Leatherdale.

  It takes a lot of energy to keep a home running. Energy is needed to run the furnace in the winter, to warm the water for your shower in the morning, and to boil the kettle for your hot chocolate at night. Every time you open the fridge to get a snack or throw your favourite pair of jeans in the wash you are gobbling up more energy. In addition, everything inside your home, from the floor under your feet to the plastic glass you drink from, needs electricity, water, or fossil fuels to make it. Although day-to-day life is very comfortable, we pay a high price in the long term. The energy consumed in our homes uses up valuable resources and pollutes the environment.

Another big environmental problem we face is feeding the world's growing population with less and less farmland. Canada is a very large country, but only a very small part of the country (less than 10 per cent) has land that can grow crops. Only about half of that small area has the right temperatures and amount of rainfall to grow crops successfully. And in Canada and the rest of the world, more and more of this good farmland is being used to build houses and highways.

Treetop Living

Some people choose to live in environmentally friendly homes that don't use up valuable resources and good farmland. Like

the Swiss Family Robinson, today many people are making their homes in the treetops. They build a small, simple home from recycled material like driftwood. Their water supply comes from rain water they collect. And instead of hooking up to an electrical power grid, they use solar energy for heat and light.

Tree-house living is becoming so popular that a company in Victoria, Treecamp Developments, has designed a portable tree house. It is held in place in a single tree with a metal frame. It takes about

six hours to put the portable tree house together. The finished tree house is two storeys high, in the shape of a tepee. It has a kitchen on the first floor and sleeping rooms on the second. Geologists, foresters, and rangers use the portable tree house when they're travelling in the wilderness. They can set up camp and then pack up and move on, without having harmed the natural environment in any way.

Floating Homes

Living high in the trees is not the only way to save land. Some people in Canada are choosing to live in houses that float on lakes and rivers, and in ocean harbours.

Not only do floating homes save valuable farmland, but many also make good use of the water where they are anchored. A special pump, called a geothermal heat pump, takes the heat from the water and changes it into a natural gas that heats the house. It also provides warm water in the bathroom and kitchen.

The owners of one floating home "run a tight ship." Instead of using new materials to build their

home, they collected used materials from buildings that were being torn down. The floors and tables are made from the wood they saved from an old warehouse. As a special "shipshape" touch, the owners rescued some doors from a wrecked ship and hung them in doorways throughout the house. As well, they made their curtains from old sails.

Living in a floating home has many perks besides the environmental benefits. Homeowners can swim from their back porch, dock their canoes in the garage, and be lulled asleep by the sound of waves lapping against the house. As the world becomes more crowded, and resources become scarcer, it's creative solutions like these that will help us save the environment.

Features of the Floating Home.

1. The house floats in an ocean harbour. This means that it doesn't take up good farmland.

2. A geothermal heat pump takes warm water from the ocean to heat the house and provide hot water. This saves electricity.

3. The walls have foam insulation to prevent heat loss.

4. The inside walls and floors and some furniture are made of recycled wood.

5. Curtains are made from reused ship sails.

6. The owners have a home office. When they work at home, they don't have to drive their car. This reduces air pollution.

7. Sewage is treated on land so that it doesn't pollute the water.

8. The owners grow their own vegetables on land. This means they don't have to drive to the store to buy them.

I remember you showing me that dinosaur of what you called a laptop computer that you used in college.

Letter  From the  Future.

by Eric Lund.

December 1, 2046.

Dear Grandpa:

I have friends in 14 new countries since I last wrote to you. I am now corresponding with children my age from over half the nations on Earth, learning many exciting things about their cultures. But I am finding more similarities than differences among us. I cannot understand why people ever waged war. Maybe it was because the language barrier restricted people from talking and understanding each other's cultures.    

My dad says you took a foreign language class in school. That would be silly today because computers do the translation in real time. My dad says you learned to play six different musical instruments and draw on real paper. Wasn't that expensive and

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wasteful? My computer is not limited to my playing ability, so I am more free to express myself.

Dad was really busy the other day so he let me ride to school in the vehicle

all alone. It wasn't scary, even though it will be two years before

I am allowed to program the destination. (I already know how, but don't

tell Dad!) Dad says old cars only had engine management computers, and the person called the driver had to operate the car manually---even on the highway. No wonder there were so many traffic-related deaths! I've even heard rumours around school that, long ago, vehicles had to stop at every corner and check for traffic, and that is why the planet's oil reserves dried up.

I am doing a project for history class, and we need to get the information from people who are old. I'm asking you because Dad says you always like to help kids (but you're not really, really old). I need to know the following: when your family got their first computer, and what you could do with it; when your family got their first real usable computer, and what you could do with it; and when you were connected to the Internet, and what you could do on that. I remember you showing me that dinosaur of what you called a laptop computer that you used in college. Remember that big, clumsy thing with the hinge and the keyboard! I'd like you to bring it to my class, because I don't think they've ever seen a real fossil.

My science class took a field trip to an old landfill the other day. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. We saw the new mining machines that harvest the metals and other materials that older generations just dumped on the ground when they were

through with them. I can't imagine someone being that wasteful today. I suppose computer technology has made it easier and more efficient to recycle products, with computer chips in all products. These chips help machines and people with recycling the products by telling them exactly how something was constructed with what materials.

We learned about junk mail the other day, and how news and advertising were sent to people whether or not they could use or afford it. My teacher says this is why so many people were in debt at the turn of the century. I also learned that most people didn't read all the news they paid for. Today, most people cannot afford to pay for something they didn't want in the first place, so they only subscribe to the type of information they want. Since all non- face-to-face communication is handled by computers, we have no need to slaughter forests.

Dad says you had to push lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners around by hand when you were a kid. Today, computers are capable of doing such tedious things. I am told that people's lives have become more productive and family oriented, ....

because computers do so many things that people spent hours a day on.  

Do you still eat real meat? We always eat synthetically grown products, because they are healthier, cheaper, and my parents say they taste better. I can't imagine eating an animal myself. Because computers control the growth of synthetic foodstuffs, they can be

grown with many more nutrients and minerals in them. How did people ever get all their nutrients when they had to keep track of them in their head? This is probably why I won't retire until I'm at least 80, and I'll live well past 100 years. Deaths from cancers are very rare, and natural causes of death have taken on an entirely new meaning since people really began living healthy.

Are you going to the Moon with us in two weeks to see Mom leave for Mars? I miss her hugs, even though I can see her on the videoscreen. She is very busy preparing for her trip, but she seems excited to be part of the first manned mission to Mars.

I can't write any more, or I'll be charged an extra $2500 transmission fee. That's not the kind of money anyone throws around today!
Most sincerely,

Your grandson Eric


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