The children want their bird back.

A statue of a yellow bird was stolen last weekend from its proper place in front of the Center for Young Children near the Denton community on North Campus. But to whoever took the statue, don’t feel too slick: The kids aren’t all right.

“Please, could you give the bird back? We really want it, and we didn’t like when you stole it. It’s not very nice,” said a soft-spoken girl in a plea to the unknown perpetrator.

The theft of the statue – a 5-foot-tall bluebird painted bright yellow with smaller depictions of birds all over it – is quite a hot issue among the 5-year-olds who attend the center, some of whom have a hard time understanding why someone would steal their beloved friend. Because of the children’s ages, The Diamondback is not publishing their names.

The children have their suspicions.

“[They stole the bird] probably so they can make money,” said one boy while rocking back and forth in his seat. “It’s not fair; they can make money in a different way, like getting a job.”

Kindergarten instructor Kathleen Sayers said her pupils are well aware they’ve been wronged. Fairness is a huge issue to children, she said, and they understand that taking the center’s bird isn’t very fair at all.

“They had a lot of interesting ideas about what they would like to do if the robbers were caught,” Sayers said. “Like giving them a lecture or putting them in jail for the rest of their lives.”

Before the statue made its home at the center, it was an entry in the Birds I View art exhibit hosted by the Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation department, similar to the painted Testudos dotting the campus.

The entry, entitled “Family Reunion,” was created by Temple Hills artist Caroline Afande and was stationed at a research center in Laurel until it was auctioned off by the county. Maryland alum William Crowe bought the sculpture and donated it to the center in 2004. It was bolted down on the grass in front of the school until last weekend.

But the children aren’t going to just sit back and wait for their beloved bird to fly home – they have spent the last two days creating posters and surveys to place around the campus in an effort to find any information pertinent to the investigation.

“We like to think of them as little researchers,” said Francine Favretto, director of the center. “Whenever something happens, they ask questions and try to find out what happens. It fits in very nicely with our research-based curriculum.”

The girl who came up with the idea of surveys proudly showed off her creation: At the top, the survey asks, “Do you know iney infirmashen abuoot the bird?” and under the question, the respondents can put their names under the “yes” column or the “no” column.

The original survey spawned many similar questionnaires Favretto hopes to use to gather information about the crime. The plan is for the children to create fliers to post in the Stamp Student Union, the education school and other campus locations; posters have already sprouted up like daisies on the walls and doors of the center.

The young investigators are very interested in learning who stole the bird. “We don’t know who stole it – it must have been robbers, teenagers or college kids, but we still don’t know,” one concerned 5-year-old said. “We could find out who stole it, if we ask the police or the army to help us.”

University Police are working on the case, Spokesman Paul Dillon said, and they are checking security video footage from the area. The investigation is ongoing.

In the meantime, parents expressed bewilderment at the crime.

“Why would anyone steal the bird? It seems kind of crazy – like stealing Testudo,” said Maushami Desoto, a graduate student and a mother.

Paul Fagiolo of Takoma Park thinks maybe the thief or thieves just don’t realize how much the statue actually meant to the young people at the center.

“My kids love to play on it as they come and go,” he said. “It’s really a big deal for the kids.”

Favretto, the center’s director, said she is concerned the incident would cause the children to harbor distrust of the outside world.

“I’m hoping that anybody that took this bird would return it,” she said. “It was a part of our school, and the children are very sad.”

Perhaps one of the boys, after considering his words very carefully, expressed his sentiment the best. “I like it, and it’s wonderful, and I miss it, and we don’t want our bird to fly away. We want it to stay here.”