Born To Fly
by Tim Griffin, copyright 2014
There was a toolshed in Kansas with a ramp up on the roof
And a little girl in a wooden box went flying through the air
Bloody, torn, and grinning though she nearly lost a tooth
And her mother cried, Amelia, what were you doing way up there
Some kids are never satisfied just riding on a swing
It’s the danger in their nature, though it makes a mama cry
The box had been her airplane and a board had been her wing
That’s when Mama knew her girl was born to fly
Chorus: You know some can never walk or run, some girls are born to fly
The only music she can hear is the roaring engine’s sound
And if you let her spread her wings, you know she may die
But it’ll only kill her faster if you keep her on the ground
Amelia climbed a lot of trees, she caught a lot of snakes
People wondered at her courage and her skill with tools
One day she told her mother, I’ll do anything it takes
To pay for lessons at an aviation school
Amelia learned mechanics and she learned to fly a plane
Then in ’32 she flew the wide Atlantic on her own
Some said she was a hero, others said she was insane
When she tried to fly around the world alone
In May of ’37 she began her famous flight
And her good friend Freddie Noonan rode along to navigate
Touching down in twenty countries, everything was going right
Her Electra Model 10 was running great
But the great Pacific ocean is a huge expanse of blue
And an island with an airfield can be mighty hard to see
They didn’t land at Howland when they were expected to
Two more brave aviators lost at sea
There are always lots of questions when our best plans go wrong
And far too many heroes we have lost along the way
We try to keep their memories in our stories and our songs
’Cause they’re the ones who made the world we have today
Amelia never made it home but I guess she would agree
You can live to push the limits though there’s danger when you try
You may one day find an airplane at the bottom of a deep blue sea
But you’ll never ground a girl who’s born to fly
…you’ll only kill her faster if you keep her on the ground.
It is usually more fun to write and read about people who achieved everything they set out to do, but there are good reasons why kids need to know about Amelia Earhart. Besides being a pioneer of aviation at a time when flying was widely considered to be one of the many things a lady simply Did Not Do, Amelia teaches us an important lesson about engineering and maybe about life. Here it is:
We only grow when we push our limits.
That’s it. So stop worrying about whether your popsicle-stick bridge is perfect, or your pinewood car is the fastest, or if that new song you wrote will impress the judges, or if those new shoes you love are too much for a Thursday. Just bring your best game and build it. Race it. Sing it. Wear it. If you are doing life right then you WILL fail, often and spectacularly. Learn from it and fail better next time. And if your plane goes down, may it happen while you are pushing boundaries no one has dared before.
Today, flying has become so routine that we complain if our plane is even a few minutes late. When I am sitting with my guitar in an airport terminal somewhere, I try to remember what an incredible privilege it is that I get to fly (fly!!!) and not even worry about safety. The reason we get to do this is because of heroes like Amelia, who pushed the limits so we could learn how to do it better; we need more like her.
Here are some academic standards from the NGSS addressed by this song. It may also tie in well to your state’s social studies/history standards for biography, then vs. now, geography, and American history.
Primary Grades (kinder through second):
K-2-ETS1-1. Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool. (Teachers, please use your judgment about how or whether your students are ready to handle a story where the hero dies.)
Upper Elementary (third through fifth):
3-5-ETS1-3. Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
3-PS2-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object.
4-ESS2-2. Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.
MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
Chords: C, F, Am, G, C7. Note I usually capo my guitar up a half step on this song to suit my voice, so on the recordings you'll hear it in C#.