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Curriculum Laboratory

Teaching Ideas Showcase: Never Write Poetry in Science Class! (Poetry Activity Centres Marathon for Grades 4 to 6)

For further assistance in using any of the resources in the lab, please ask at the Curriculum Lab Information Services Desk

This web page, and its various activity sheets were designed with the assistance and feedback of Ms. Heather Willms and her Lakeview School classes of 2005-2007. In spite of the warning to NEVER write poetry in science class, you will find their science poetry creations, based on the Grade 5E science topic: "Wetland Ecosystems," throughout this web page. Many thanks to Heather and each of her students for the warm welcome they gave me, and their passion and creativity for poetry writing.

Many thanks to Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith for writing the book, "Science Verse," especially the section, "Why Scientists Do Not Write Nursery Rhymes," which inspired each one of us, simple science students and teachers, to ignore the warning, "Never write poetry in science class!"

Objectives of Handout/Workshop


1) To define poetry as a genre.
2) To integrate the teaching of poetry with the teaching of science in the curriculum (We were not intelligent enough to ignore the warning in the title of this web page).
3) To enjoy various science poems.
4) Students will learn about, and write, in these poetic and literary forms:

    • Acrostic poetry
    • Similes
    • Concrete poetry
    • Cinquain poems
    • Alliteration
    • Kennings poems
    • "If I were a..." poems
    • Poems using all 5 senses


    Potential Curriculum Connections


Language Arts

General outcome 2: Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to comprehend and respond personally and critically to oral, prints and other media texts, including responding to texts, understanding forms, elements and techniques, and creating original texts, including:

  • various texts such as poetry
  • retelling events of stories in another form or medium
  • appreciating the artistry of texts, including alliteration (grade 4), simile (grade 5), altering sentences and word choices to enhance meaning (grade 5), experiment with sentence patterns to create mood and mental images, such as cinquains and free verse (grade 6)
  • understand forms, elements and techniques, including rhyme

Any Grade Four to Six Science Topics

While the examples posted are from grade 4-6 science topics, the poetry activity centres could also be easily adapted to any grade 4-6 curriculum topics, including social studies, art, sports, etc. Ms. Heather Willms and her grade 5 class contributed poetry related to the grade 5E science topic: "wetland ecosystems."

See the Alberta curriculum for more information:

  • The Elementary Program of Studies, available at 375 General Alta. Gr. 1-6,  covers what must be taught in Alberta schools.
  • The Teacher Resource Manuals provide suggestions on how teachers may implement the Program of Studies outcomes:
    • Illustrative Examples for English Language Arts: Kindergarten to Grade 9 (LangArt Alta. Gr.EC-9)
    • Let's Do Science:  Grades 1-6  -- These titles are published by the Science Alberta Foundation, not Alberta Learning, but they are available at 375 Science Alta. Gr.1-6.  The guides are designed to help elementary teachers plan, implement, and evaluate the outcomes in the elementary Program of Studies.


Teacher Resources


Recommended Resources for Teaching Poetry:

Some of the ideas in the following titles are used for the Poetry Writing Marathon Centres.

  • Teaching Ideas Showcase: Starred Ideas for Teaching Poetry -- Includes practical books on teaching poetry, quick ideas, reader's theater, books of poetry students will enjoy, poetry on the web. It includes some excellent web links to lesson plans on all these types of poetry.
  • Backus, Maria. Reading and writing poetry. In process. This practical book includes practical poetry lessons on some of the major literary forms, as well as detailed lessons on 6 types of poetry, including cinquains, haiku, and alliteration.
  • Alberta Learning. English language arts skills handbook. 375 LangArt Gr.1-6
  • Harley, Avis. Fly with poetry: an ABC of poetry. 811.6 Har
  • Harley, Avis. Leap into poetry: more ABCs of poetry. 811.6 Har
  • Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Pass the poetry, please! 808.1 Hop
  • Janeczko, Paul. A kick in the head: an everyday guide to poetic forms. On order. This title looks at a variety of poetic forms. Each poem is followed by a brief explanation of the poem form.
  • Lashmar, Patrick. Yes you can write poetry: a whole language unit for ages 9 through 13. 808.1 Las
  • Livingston, Myra Cohn. Poem-making: ways to begin writing poetry. 808.1 Liv
  • Prelutsky, Jack. Read a rhyme, Write a rhyme. On order. A book of child friendly poems. What sets this book apart are the "Poemstarts," which including the beginning lines of poems, with hints to get students to finish each poem.
  • Raczuk, Helen K. Twisters to twangle the tongue: adapted and scripted for 2 or more voices. 398.8 Rac
  • Ruurs, Margriet. The power of poems: teaching the joy of writing poetry. 808.1 Ruu
  • Sweeny, Jacqueline. Teaching poetry: yes you can! 808.1 Swe
  • Tiedt, Iris. Tiger Lilies, toadstools, and thunderbolts: engaging K-8 students with poetry. 372.64 Tie
  • Wainright, James. Poetivities: guiding creative poetic expression successfully in the elementary grades: intermediate level. 808.1 Wai

Recommended Poetry Books containing Science poems:

  • Adof, Arnold. Touch the poem. On order. A collection of poems about the sense of touch.
  • Alderson, Sue Ann. Pond Seasons. 811.54 Ald.
  • Base, Graham. Animalia. 421.1 Bas. Alliteration on every page, plus a "hidden land of beasts and birds."
  • Bouchard, David. A barnyard bestiary: a poem. 811.54 Bou. An ecological message on the relationship of domestic animals with man.
  • Bouchard, David. If you're not from the prairie . . . 811.54 Bou. The visual and poetic artwork celebrates the diverse ecology of the prairie.
  • Burg, Brad. Outside the lines: poetry at play. 811.6 Bur. Concrete poems, including science poems such as, "Firelflies" and "Bubbles."
  • Dakos, Kalli. Don't read this book, whatever you do! More poems about school. 811.54 Dak. Poems reflect life in lively classrooms and are based on the author's experiences as an elementary school teacher. There is little science in this book, but I could not resist the title. If it is science you want, check out, "Ode to a toe," and "There is a cockroach in my desk," "Whose thumb is this?" and "The bugs are out."
  • Esbensen, Barbara. Who shrank my grandmother's house? Poems of discovery. 811.54 Esb. A collection of poems about discoveries concerning everyday objects and things. Ordinary things can seem new, unexpected, and magic.
  • Fleischman, Paul. I am phoenix: poems for two voices. 811.54 Fle. A collection of poems about birds to be read aloud by two voices.
  • Fleischman, Paul. Joyful noise: poems for two voices. 811.54 Fle. A collection of poems describing the characteristics and activities of a variety of insects.
  • Floca, Brian. The racecar alphabet. Alliteration abound at an exciting day at the races. The book highlights the letters of the alphabet as a variety of automobiles burn fuel speeding through the curves of the track.
  • Florian, Douglas. Beast feast. 811.54 Flo. A collection of humorous poems about such animals as the walrus, anteater, and boa. It includes quite a number of similes.
  • Florian, Douglas. Insectlopedia and On the wing. On order.
  • Florian, Douglas. Mammalabilia. 811.54 Flo. A collection of humorous poems about mammals such as the tiger, and gorilla. It contains several Kennings poems, as well as concrete poems, etc.
  • Franco, Betsy. Mathematickles! 811.54 Fra. A collection of poems written in the form of mathematical problems and grouped according to seasonal themes. These are a form of Kennings poems.
  • Gackenbach, Dick. Timid Timothy's tongue twisters. 818.54 Gac. Several tongue twisters (Alliteration) present the stories of a fisher named Fischer, Betty Botter, a tutor who tooted a flute, and others.
  • Graham, Joan. Flicker flash. 811.54 Gra. A collection of concrete poems celebrating light in its various forms, from candles and lamps to lightning and fireflies.
  • Graham, Joan. Splish splash. 811.54 Gra. A collection of concrete poems celebrating water in its various forms, from ice cubes to the ocean.
  • Grasby, Donna. A Seaside Alphabet. 421.1 Gra. Alliteration on the Atlantic coast, across the alphabet. Contains information on each page at the back of the book.
  • Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Dinosaurs. 811.54 Din. Various dinosaur poems, including what could be considered Kennings or riddle poem on page 38. Read the poem to someone else, without the title, and see if they can guess it describes dinosaur fossils.
  • Hummon, David. Animal acrostics. Acrostic poems describing prime characteristics of a animals grouped by habitat.
  • Janeczko, Paul B. A poke in the I. 811.5 Pok. This innovative book of concrete poems contains some science poems, such as Giraffe, or Crickets.
  • Kellogg. Steven. Aster Aardvark's alphabet adventures. 421.1 Kel. Alliterative text and pictures present adventures of animals from A to Z.
  • Larrick, Nancy. Green is like a meadow of grass: an anthology of children's pleasure in poetry. 811.54 Gre. A collection of poems by children from ages six to thirteen about spring, sea shells, fairies, and such, selected by teachers in the third workshop in poetry for children, a graduate course, held at Lehigh University, School of Education, 1967.
  • Lewis, Patrick. A hippopotamusn't, and other animal verses. 811.54 Lew. More than thirty mostly humorous poems about a variety of animals. The poem "River-Lovers" is a great example of a Kennings Poem.
  • Livingston, Myra Cohn. Sky songs. 811.54 Liv. Fourteen poems about the various aspects of the sky such as the moon, clouds, stars, storms, and sunsets, in triple-cinquain format (This format is more complicated that the one we use on this web page. It utilizes 22 syllables and is broken into a 2-4-6-8-2 pattern.)
  • McGregor, Jeannie. The new toe: poems to tickle your funnybone. 811.6 McG. There are science poems here, such as, "Pigs," and "If Centipedes Wore Running Shoes."
  • Perry, Sarah. If.... F Per. Illustrations present such imaginative possibilities as worms with wheels, caterpillar toothpaste, and whales in outer space. What a great way to get students to create animal adaptations posters and poems!
  • Prelutsky, Jack. A pizza the size of the sun. 811.54 Pre. A collection of humorous poetry on a variety of topics, including these "science" poems: Bugs bugs, Eureka, and Do not approach an Emu.
  • Prelutsky, Jack. Scranimals. 811.54 Pre. Check out some unique animal adaptations, such as the broccolions and the detested radishark!
  • Raczuk, Helen. Twisters to twangle the tongue. 398.8 Rac. More alliteration poems, to be read chorally.
  • Ryder, Joanne. Earthdance. Poetic and environmental and all about the earth, in concrete poetry.
  • Schnur, Steven. Autumn: an alphabet acrostic. Also, Spring, Summer and Winter. 508.2 Sch.
  • Scieszka, Jon. Science verse. F Sci. When the teacher tells his class that they can hear the poetry of science in everything, a student is struck with a curse and begins hearing nothing but science verses that sound very much like some well-known poems. The section, "Why Scientists Don't Write Nursery Rhymes" was the inspiration for this web page. "The senseless lab of Professor Revere" will inspire students to write their "5-senses-poem-riddles."
  • Sierra, Judy. Wild about books. F Sie. A librarian named Mavis McGrew introduces the animals in the zoo to the joy of reading when she drives her bookmobile to the zoo by mistake. Did you know bugs can scribble haiku? (P.S.: "The Scorpion gave each a stinging review.")


Preparation, and List of Materials


Preparation ahead of time:

1) Students are to come to the workshop with 1-2 paragraph science reports that they can use for the poetry writing activities. It can be related to the science unit they are presently studying, or any other subject.

2) Provide backup science information at each station, in case students do not have their own reports, as above.


Materials List:

1) Poetry books, as mentioned above, including Jon Scieszka's book, "Science verse (F Sci)".

2) A Poetry Expansion Chart for each student. An alternative activity is the the Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres Practice Handout ("Tapeworms and Acrostic Poetry", "Rat Tail Maggots and Simile Poetry," and "Water Beetles and Cinquian Poetry").

3) Suitable activities from the Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres Booklet.

4) An award for each student.


What is Poetry?


1) What is poetry?

-Share some of these quotes:

a) "Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech."
-Simonides (556 B.C.-468 B.C.)-

b) "Poetry is speaking painting."
-Plutarch (circa 45-125 A.D)-

c) "Poetry is like a Supernova."
-Bill Glaister (1957-present)

A Supernova, according to The Free Dictionary, is "a massive star in the latter stages of stellar evolution that suddenly contracts and then explodes, increasing its energy output as much as a billionfold. "

Supernova Poetry (A Simile Poem)

Poetry is as powerful as a supernova.
A poem implodes with meaning
With each word bigger than itself.
(Two word outbursts!)
It also explodes
With word-paintings galore,
And full of energy.

2) Get the students to close their eyes, and paint a visual picture of a fun poem on animal adaptations, from "Scranimals," by Jack Prelutsky (e.g. Introduce the book by reading the dust jacket, and then have them close their eyes and paint the visual picture of "The Detested Radishark," page 29. You could have them sketch their visual picture and show them the picture from the book. Was their visual picture the same?) This is bonus activity "Animal Adaptations" they can try if they are interested.

3) Read them a "painting" done "with the gift of speech," such as "Clouds," found in "Sky Songs," by Myra Cohn Livingston. As they listen to it, see if they can guess the image being painted in their minds are clouds. This is a type of "Kennings poem," which some of them will try themselves.

Poetry Is Like a Marathon Race:


Stretching and training
for poetry
involves enjoying some fun poems, together.
It warms up your poetry-writing muscles,
to get ready for the marathon.

The starting line
of a marathon race
is where you all line up at the same spot.
We will need to do some work together,
to make sure we can start the race at the same spot,
with the same level of poetry writing fitness,
before we run our poetry marathon.

The marathon race
is the same as
the poetry writing race activity centres,
where you can get help and inspiration from other people
as you run the poetry writing marathon.

The finish of the poetry marathon
is where you feel proud about what you have accomplished,
and can share it with others.

Stretching and Training for Poetry Writing
(Convincing You Poetry is Fun By having Fun With Poetry!)


Stretching and training
for poetry
involves enjoying some fun poems, together.
It warms up your poetry-writing muscle

Conduct a Poetry Survey


How many of you like poetry? How many do not? Why or why not?

1) Poetry is fun, because poetry is music:

"Poetry is a popular song, without the music."
-Bill Glaister (1957 A.D.-present)

-How many of you like to listen to music?

-Discuss popular songs as poetry: display or recite an example provided to you by the class ahead of time: "If you like music, you like poetry!"

2) Do a book talk, and enjoy science poems from Jon Scieszka's book, "Science Verse." Some suggestions might be the cover jacket introduction, the start of the book, and these poems: "Twink--," Why Scientists Do Not Write Nursery Rhymes (Mary Had a..., Good Night), "You're It," or "The Senseless Lab of Professor Revere."

3) Do some Tongue Twister (Alliteration) Poems, and Reader's Theater Poems. Introduce the Alliteration Poetry Centre by getting the class to read a reader's theater poem from "Twisters to Twangle the Tongue," by Helen K. Raczuk, such as "Two-toed Tree Toad (scripted for 4 voices or groups)."

4) In the marathon poetry writing activity groups,

a) Find the name of your poetry writing centre, and be prepared to share the name of the centre and the definition.

b) From the books and samples at the centre, quickly find 1-2 lines of a poem you like, and be prepared to share it with the class. If it is a poem that matches the centre definition, that is even better!

The Starting Line of the Poetry Marathon


The starting line
of a marathon race
is where you all line up at the same spot.
We will need to do some work together,
to make sure we can start the race at the same spot,
with the same level of poetry writing fitness,
before we run our poetry marathon.

You have been asked to do some of this preparation for the starting line ahead of time. You have been asked to write or copy two paragraphs on some aspect of the science unit you are currently working on. Each station has backup paragraphs you can use, in case you do not brought your own.

The activity, below uses my two paragraphs, written on marathon races:

My marathon race research

How do you participate successfully in a marathon running race? The day of the race is only one small part of getting there. First of all, if you do not have fun getting there, you will never finish the race on race day. It is great to train with a group of friends, who encourage each other, and socialize as they train. Fun is a key element to any activity that requires preparation.

What are the other parts to a successful race, besides the actual race? There is the training, where you start with small runs, and increase to almost the distance of a your actual race. It is important to train for the race, by starting small and working up. There is the stretching before each run, which gets your muscles warmed up for each run, so you do not injure yourself. The starting line of the race is where you all get lined up at the same spot, and then you are able to take off at your own pace. The race itself is always inspirational, as you visit with different people along the way, get inspiration from them, and enjoy the fun of the day. The finish is something not quickly forgotten: you have worked hard in training, and now it all pays off, as people cheer you over the finish line.

1) Pick out 5 of the most interesting key words or short phrases (no more than 3 words together) from your paragraphs, and underline them. I have done that with my paragraphs, above, except I have bolded the words, instead of underlining them so you don't think they link to another web page!

2a) Poetry Expansion Chart:

Fill in your words using a Poetry Expansion Chart, like my examples, below. You will use some of these in your poetry writing.

Poetry Expansion Chart
Key words: Expansion words:
marathon running race running rapidly a long race requiring really rugged running shoes
stretching pushing the limits, warming the muscles, touching the toes, extend, reach out, slowly, carefully, retching,
starting line anticipation, sound of silence before the starting gun, "ready, set, BANG!", bodies packed like sardines waiting to escape the can!
race pounding pavement, heavy breaths, sweat and strain, heating up, a race is like poetry writing, pace, place, face, case, cool water slides down the throat, like a shower on a hot day
finish reel them in, pass another one, legs are cramping but there's the finish, people cheering, time clock counting

Ideas for expansion:

  • adjectives (something that explains something about a noun: which? what kind? how many?)
  • adverbs (something that explains something about a verb: how? when? where? how often?, to what degree?)
  • synonyms (word with the same meaning),
  • similes (a comparison between two unlike things using "like" or "as") or
  • metaphors (a comparison between two unlike things without using "like" or "as"),
  • rhyming words,
  • alliteration (repetition of the first sound in a group of words),
  • describe the key words using the senses (What do you see, hear, smell, feel, taste when you hear this word?).

Begin to paint visual pictures with your words. You could use a dictionary to look up synonyms for your words. Do not worry if you do not know what some of these terms mean now: you are just at the "stretching stage". The terms will be explained once you start the poetry marathon "racing" stage.

2b) An alternative activity is the the Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres Practice Handout ("Tapeworms and Acrostic Poetry", "Rat Tail Maggots and Simile Poetry," and "Water Beetles and Cinquian Poetry").

Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres:


The marathon race
is the same as
the poetry writing race activity centres,
where you can get help and inspiration from other people
as you run the poetry writing marathon.


  • All of these centres use the Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres Booklet.
  • The following examples of each type of poem are also at each station.
  • Each centre should contain some of the books mentioned above in the Teacher Resources. See the words in bold, to decide which books should be placed at each centre.
  • If you have examples you would consider posting on this site, please scan them in, save them as jpeg files, and e-mail to me at Your first name, and school only should be indicated. Any references to a last name will be removed from the images before they are posted.


1) Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres:
Acrostic Poems

An Acrostic poem begins with a noun, where each letter of the noun is used to begin a line in the poem.

Marathon race research example:

Running rapidly a race
Accelerating past tortoise runners
ramping legs slow me down
veryone cheering when I cross the finish line!

Science class examples:


-Naomi D.-

Flying high in the sky
Like a baby butterfly
ou are small but can't you see, you are really bugging me.

-Caylen M.-


2) Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres:
Simile Poems

A simile poem starts with a simile which compares two unlike things using like or as.

Marathon race research example:

Waiting at the starting line of a race
Is like being a sardine in a can:
We are packed wall-to-wall
And we were hard to catch.
Not now!

Science class examples:

Salamanders are as cool as a fish,
quick as an alligator.
They dart back and forth,
Some white like a cloud.

-Richard B.-

Birds are like a plane,
High in the sky.
They drift like clouds,
Their nest is like an airport.

-Jeff P.-


3) Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres:
Concrete, Shape, or Picture Poems

The words in a concrete poem are arranged in the shape of a poem's topic. The picture they make is as much a part of the poem as the words.

Science class examples:



4) Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres:
Cinquain Poems

A cinquain poem is a five lined poem, which can follow this pattern:

1) One word: title or topic of a poem.
2) Two words: describe the topic.
3) Three words: describe the action of the topic.
4) Four words: describe a feeling or thought about the topic.
5) One word: a synonym is given for the topic in the first line.

Marathon race research example:

Very near
Seconds on clock.
Can I go faster?


5) Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres:
Tongue Twister or Alliteration Poems

Alliteration or tongue twister poems involve the repetition of the first sound in a group of words, often creating a musical effect.

Marathon race research example:

Running rapidly a prolonged performance in a protracted procession of peers.
Running races require really rugged running shoes!
Starting slowly, like a sluggardly snail.
But sometimes bolting by battered bipeds
As bone-tired as I.

Science class examples:

Sneaky snakes slipping through the stagnant water.

-Alex A.-

Mr. Moose munches on many mountain maple leaves, making massive movements.

-Taylor L.-

Beaver biting bark,
Having a birthday party in the bog.
Back to biting:
Yum, yum yum,

-Caroline S.-

Scaly, slimy snake, slithering through the stinky swamp.

-Cody F.-

6) Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres:
Kennings Poems

Kennings poems are riddles that describe something, used in poetic form.

Kennings phrase:

Clothes for tootsy

Kennings phrase in a poem:

Clothes for tootsy,
Protects my footsy.
Stops an "owey."
But expensive, "Wowey!"

Science class examples:

I'm a buzzing bandit,
Stealing food from giants.
When the giants lose food,
they get itchy and swat!


-Jake V.-

Green and bumpy, two meters long, I have a big snout.
I'm fast when moving through the water,
I'm even faster than a bird when it's flying through the air.

I make some little animals lunch.
If I were you I wouldn't go swimming in the swamp.
If I were you I wouldn't , because you'd be my lunch!


-Rachel P.-


7) Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres:
"If I were a..." Poems




8) Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres:

5 senses poem-riddles start out each lines with these words:
The sound of...
The sight of...
The smell of...
The taste of...
The feel of...
Who (or What) am I?

The sound of many flapping feet
The sight of numbers everywhere
The smell of sweat, "Pee-yew!"
The taste of fruit served with a smile
The feel of pain and cramps.
What am I?

(A race!)

Science class examples:

Hear the water moving,
As the frog jumps
From lilypad to lilypad.
And hear the cattails swaying in the breeze.
There are many creatures,
Dwelling inside
Playing with one and other.
In the pond.
Listen closely,
And you may hear.


Water, look at it glisten.
Smell the stench of the birds.
Hear the birds fight for land.
Taste the fish that come from the pond.
Feel the water when you take a swim.
Brrr, Should have worn clothes!

-Tony B.-

You're hearing the sound of music,
It rings with chirps.
It can be soft or loud.
You hear the sound of nature and you see it all around,
Like the sound of splashing and rocking.

-Kayleigh M.-

9) Bonus Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres:
Haiku Poems

Running fast feels great
Passing others makes me young
Smart, near rabid dogs!


10) Bonus Poetry Writing Marathon Activity Centres:
Animal Adaptation Poems

Man + Jaguar = MANUAR

The mighty MANUAR
Is as swift as a cat:
Flies across the ground
And never gets fat.
He is great at winning races
And roars when he calls.
But he's not very popular
When he coughs up big hairballs.


Snail + Road Runner (A very fast bird) = Snailrunner

You'll never catch the snailrunner
No matter how you try,
though there is no animal funner,
with whom you can race with 'till you die.

He looks as slow a toad
With a shell and bulbous body
but try to pass him on the road,
And your efforts will seem shoddy.

The road runner is as fast,
as the snail is slow
But the snailrunner's shell hides a secret blast,
A supercharged "blow!"

If you try to lap him in a race
or push him in a ditch,
he'll laugh right in your face,
And flick his "faster-fastest" switch.

His hidden jet engine
will burn away your hair
It'll cook your fragile skin
So, runners, please beware!


The Finish Line

The finish of the poetry marathon
is where you feel proud about what you have accomplished,
and can share it with others.


The Award Ceremony

Congratulations! If you completed even one of the poetry centres, you are a Poetry Writing Marathoner.

Here is an award for you.


Produced by:  Bill Glaister, Ms. Heather Willms, June 2006. Updated August 2007.

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