When I asked my students why we call a $1 coin a loonie, my students told me it was because of the picture of a swan on it. After I told them that bird wasn’t a swan, they guessed a duck and a goose. None of my 30 grade 5 students, most of whom live in the inner city, knew what a loon was. I explained the bird was a loon, so we call the $1 coin a loonie. Next I asked why we called the $2 coin a twoonie and they told me it was because of the polar bear on it.
This is when I realized, the pictures on Canadian money were foreign to my students who live in the city. The had never seen the Queen nor a beaver and had only seen a polar bear at the zoo. They did not know what a loon, caribou or the Bluenose were. The only picture that was relevant to my city kids was the maple leaves on the back on the penny, which is no longer in use.
Of course, it’s good to teach my students why these pictures on the coins are symbols of Canada. AND, I wish that these symbols – or at least one of the symbols – were familiar to my students. They are Canadian.