Third-grader Megan Furr was barely tall enough to reach the microphone, but that didn't stop her from reading the "hair poem" she had written.
"Hair, hair. It's everywhere," she read. "Some have a little, some have a lot. Plain hair, striped hair, polka dots."
When she finished the four-stanza poem, the audience of senior citizens clapped and laughed.
Megan was one of about a dozen children from Swansfield Elementary School participating last week in an "authors' tea" at Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia.
The project was the brainchild of five children working with Joann Olchowski, the school's Gifted and Talented Program resource teacher.
Fourth-graders Connie Shih, Anthony Basile, Chris Martin and Michelle Forney, and fifth-grader Zach Brown like creative writing and wanted to encourage classmates to write, Olchowski said.
They decided to send writings to the senior center, where they were placed on display, and to organize the tea.
The partnership between the elementary school and the senior center had the added benefit of bringing youths and the elderly together, Olchowski said.
About 15 elderly people attended the event, listening attentively to each poem or essay and clapping after each one. The children took the microphone one by one, introducing themselves and reading what they had written.
Fifth-grader Meg Sawyer described a close relationship with an elderly aunt. "As I settle myself on the torn pink cushions, it is I who placed the red checkered blanket over Aunt Lucy," she read. "For now it is my turn to serve her as she served me so many years ago."
Responding to a question from the audience, Meg said there was no Aunt Lucy, though the poem was based on a real person.
Many writings were inspired by hobbies. Fourth-grader Sarah Boone, who plays piano and clarinet, wrote a poem titled "Nature's Orchestra," which described leaves as maracas and flowing rivers as tinkling flutes.
Fourth-grader Anthony Basile wrote about his favorite sport. His poem ends, "Stop what you're doing, give it a try. Soccer spirit will never die."
Though the schoolchildren had practiced with microphones before the big day, some were a little nervous speaking in front of an audience. "Sometimes it's hard and sometimes it's easy, but usually it's kind of hard," said Kelsie Hitesman, a third-grader who read a poem about her younger sister.
"You get nervous, but once you do it it's fun," said fourth-grader Danny Solow, who wrote a poem titled "Open," which began, "Open your heart for love and glory."
After the readings, young and old lined up for coffee, tea, cookies and punch.
"I thought it was great," said Bertha Casteel, a senior at Florence Bain. "I haven't enjoyed anything so much for a long time. And the children were so dear."