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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the world's smallest cat?

Prionailurus rubiginosus. The Rusty-Spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) wins the title for the world's smallest wild cat weighing a mere 1.8-3.5 lbs (0.8-1.6 kg) and is 14 to 19 inches (35 to 48 cm) in length (not counting the tail which is half the size of the body). (from

What should I read next?

Well, that depends on what you enjoy and what you are in the mood for. You should probably talk to a librarian, or our wonderful teacher-librarian Mme Brogan. If the school is closed or you can't get there right now to ask, you could ask a friend who has similar tastes. You can also consult a website for a book recommendation, such as 49th Shelf, CBC Books, or BookRiot. There are also some great sites that specialize in children's literature, like Brightly or A Mighty Girl, in addition to the children's lit sections on the three already mentioned. 

What should I do if my child is home sick from school?

First, give them a kiss and tuck them into bed. Next, call the Safe Arrival voicemail number--604-713-5159 (ext. 68)-- and leave a message regarding your child's absence from school. Do this before 9 AM. If your child is an intermediate student it is their responsibility to check in with their teacher about any missed work upon their return to school. Some students will need your support in stepping up to this mature task.

Why is the sky blue?

Sunlight reaches Earth's atmosphere and is scattered in all directions by all the gases and particles in the air. Blue light is scattered more than the other colors because it travels as shorter, smaller waves. This is why we see a blue sky most of the time. (from

Who lived in this place before Europeans arrived?

Quilchena Elementary sits on the unceeded territories of the Coast Salish people, including the Musqueam, Squamish, and the Tsleil-waututh. They live here still.

What is the longest river in the world?

The Nile is credited as the longest river in the world. Its main source is Lake Victoria in east central Africa. From its farthest stream in Burundi, it extends 6,695 km (4,160 miles) in length. (from

Does Quilchena have a social media presence?

We sure do! If you're on Twitter you can follow the school @QuilchenaSchool and follow the library @QL_library. Some teachers have Twitter accounts too: ask them.

What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Well, the most obvious answer- you might think- is “An African or European swallow?” But in actual fact, none of the 47 swallow species found on the African continent directly bears its name. We might consider the West African swallow, or the South African Cave swallow, however a choice between these two would be completely arbitrary- and neither is sufficiently studied to provide the data we need.

So we shall answer our first question, and go simply for the European (or ‘Barn’) swallow. Believe it or not, there is in fact an accepted way to estimate the airspeed of a bird using an equation known as the Strouhal ratio. This states that the frequency of wingbeats multiplied by their amplitude and divided by the airspeed of the bird provides a semi-constant value. This is known as the Strouhal number and averages between 0.2 and 0.4 for most birds, with a higher number denoting a less efficient flight pattern.
The European swallow is well studied: it turns out that a 50+ year study run by the University of Cape Town has captured, measured and released 25,000+ of these birds. And with the benefit of this data we can very easily discover their average mass and wing-length- 20.3g and 0.122m (12.2cm) respectively.
The amplitude and frequency of such birds in flight has unfortunately not been studied quite as extensively, so here’s where the guesswork comes in. However, by comparing the above values to similar birds, we can come up with an estimated value of both measures. The frequency calculated thus turns out as 15 wingbeats per second, the amplitude of each stroke being 22cm.

Now for the exciting part!! Swallow flight is (for those poor people who have failed to watch it) clearly very efficient, seeming almost effortless. So we’ll opt for the lower end of Strouhal numbers in our working, giving us (drumroll please), an airspeed velocity of 11–16 metres per second. That’s 40–60 kilometers per hour… pretty fast!

It turns out that one study has indeed been conducted that directly analysed these birds’ flight, and their results are pretty interesting. Recording two swallows flying through a wind tunnel in Sweden (minus the wind), they showed that wingbeats occur at a startlingly low 7–9 beats per second. Their max speed clocks up at 14 metres per second, averaging out at 8–11 for normal flight. The reason, of course, is that a swallow’s flight is even more efficient than we had given credit for: blowing its avian counterparts clean out the water with a shocking 0.13 on the Strouhal scale.

With a coconut? Well, the somewhat inaccurate guard gets the gist of the matter across here: “A five ounce bird could not carry a 1 pound coconut.” Except that a swallow weighs 0.7 oz and the coconut clocks in at 1.5lb (24oz). So yes- once you manage to carry a minibus on your back and run a marathon, then perhaps you can start talking to that swallow. But if you could hook 500 of the birds up in one line…?

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