Book I'm writing as a gift for a 4th grade teacher, using her actual class.
|“I have the best news to share with you,” said Mrs. Bennis, barely able to contain her grin. The kids were going to be so excited when they heard the news. It had been months since they had written the class essay for the Design a Smart School contest. It had taken weeks of brainstorming ideas and collaborating on the wording they would use before they could get a cohesive essay put together. They had just barely made the deadline.
Mrs. Bennis could hardly believe the ideas they had come up with. From walls that could change a room from one type to another, rooms with actual robots that responded to coding commands, and even glass walls that slid out to separate bullies from their victims, their ideas had been nearly endless. They had included as many of the ideas as they could cram into the 5,000 word essay and they had used nearly every word available. Their essay, Getting Smarter in a Smart School, had totalled 4,976 words.
Each student had also been required to write a short bio to include with the essay. With 27 students and one teacher, the girth of the manila envelope they put it in almost kept it from closing. In the end, they had gotten it sent just in time. After months of waiting, Mrs. Bennis had very nearly forgotten about it. In the beginning, after they had sent the essay, students would ask if she had heard anything, but after a while, even they had given up asking. Together they had inferred that they hadn’t won the contest and had put it behind them.
That’s why, when Mr. Purlee burst into her room after school, waving a paper in the air, beaming, she had known something stupendous had happened. Now, Mr. Purlee waited anxiously in front of the room, wanting to be included in the announcement, as well as the adventure that would soon follow.
“Now that everyone is here, I have the most magnificent news to share. A few days ago, Mr. Purlee received a letter in the mail.” Mrs. Bennis began.
“Was it an invitation to go on a intercontinental trip around the world?” joked Lizzie.
“No...” Mrs. Bennis’s smile stretched all the way up to her eyes and even her eyes curved upward in little additional smiles. “But...oh you tell them, Mr. Purlee.”
Mr. Purlee, who was about to explode with excitement, eagerly delivered the news, “You’ve won the Smart School essay contest! And all of you will be taking a trip to see the very first smart school based on the ideas in your essay!”
The room erupted in shrieks, screams and high fives. Kids jumped out of their chairs, bouncing around the room like ping pong balls dropped from the ceiling.
“Where do we get to go?” Breaunna asked.
“Yeah, and when is the trip?” said Reid. The class was a cacophony of noise with everyone talking over everyone else. Mrs. Bennis waited quietly at the front of the room. One by one as the class noticed her waiting, they took their seats and instructed their classmates to do the same. They knew that until they had settled down, she would give them no further information.
When all but a few students were in their seats and reasonably quiet, Mrs. Bennis said, “The trip will be two weeks from this Friday. We will be traveling to New York City. It will be an overnight trip. Even better, there will be no cost. The trip is entirely paid for by the contest sponsors.”
Cheers rose from throughout the room. This was the reason they had waited until the end of the day to deliver the news. Mrs. Bennis handed out the information packets along with permission slips and release forms for the trip. She sincerely hoped that all the parents would agree to let the students come. Every one of them had worked very hard on the essay, even missing recesses and working on it during lunch. There was not one student who did not deserve to go on this once in a lifetime trip.
The following day, Mr. Purlee, Mrs. Bennis and the office were flooded with calls about the safety of the trip, inquiries about the need for chaperones and length of the trip. They were all assured that safety measures were in place for every leg of the journey. Once they were off the plane, they would have personal escorts to take them to and from the school. One piece of information gave the parents pause; no additional chaperones would be allowed. The prize stated that the class, one male and one female school employee would be allowed.That seemed to be a point of contention for most parents. Mr. Purlee had spent hours on the phone with the smart school contest representatives explaining that two chaperones was inadequate for 27 students, but was assured that there would be additional trained staff, all of whom had passed rigorous background checks on premises to supervise, as well as the school itself that monitored all activity within its walls.
After much cajoling and begging and earnest promises were made, all but one student had been given permission to go. Luke’s parents had refused to give in and allow him to attend. Mrs. Bennis did her best to include Luke as much as possible leading up to the trip, so he did not feel completely left out.
They spent the week before their trip going over their essay and conferring over which aspects they thought the smart school would include, even going so far as to draw blueprints of what they expected to see. The whole school had a convocation to celebrate their winning entry and Mrs. Bennis’s class had given a presentation on their essay. Contagious excitement buzzed through the school like electricity.
Finally, the Friday of the trip, the class arrived at the airport as parents walked their children to the security gate to say their goodbyes. Their flight was leaving first thing in the morning to allow them to spend the entire day at the smart school before retiring for the night inside the school. Mr. Purlee and Mrs. Bennis had arrived well beforehand to ensure that everyone boarded together.
“This is my first time flying!” said Chloe. “I’m kinda nervous and excited.”
“I love the take off,” said Jojo. “You get smashed back against the seat. It’s awesome!” Concern and worry clouded Chloe’s face, so Jojo added, “It doesn’t last long and then it doesn’t even feel like you’re moving. You’ll love it!” Then she draped an arm around her friend’s shoulder.
Each child had a duffle bag or small suitcase they pulled along behind them. They looked like a trail of ants pulling grain behind them as they converged on their meeting spot. Suddenly a familiar, yet unexpected face appeared on the escalator. Luke had made it.
Ben C. and Rowan scrambled over to him.
“I thought you weren’t coming?” said Rowan.
“Yeah, after I moped around for two weeks, my dad convinced my mom to let me go. Still this morning, I had my doubts as to whether she’d really let me go or not. I wasn’t so sure I actually wanted to go. But here I am,” said Luke. “Plus Mr. Purlee guaranteed that he would personally make sure nothing happened to me.” He cast a glance at Mr. Purlee who gave him a thumbs up and moved a few steps closer.
“Well I hope SOMETHING happens to all of us! Something totally awesome! If nothing at all happens, it’ll be a boring trip.” said Michael.
“As long as nothing BAD happens.” Jack mumbled.
They boarded the flight taking up the majority of seats. Other passengers looked warily at the large group of kids. They had been placed in groups of 3’s with Mr. Purlee and Mrs. Bennis strategically placed to be able to handle any problems. Their excitement was palpable and Mrs. Bennis just hoped they could keep the volume level down for the other occupants of the plane.
“We will begin our descent, please make sure your tray tables and seats are in their upright and locked positions. The temperature in New York City is a pleasant 75 degrees. Thank you for flying with us,” came an announcement over the loudspeaker.
“It’s over already?” Emily said.
“Two hours went by so fast!” said Ashland. “This is going to be amazing!”
As they exited the concourse, they saw a large sign, “Welcome to New York City, Mrs. Bennis’s Class!” in huge black letters, held by a man in a black suit. After a quick head and bag count, they met their guide.
“Hi! My name is Jonathan. I’m your guide for the next two days. I have been in the Smart School and it is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! Seriously, the coolest, because the temperature can go down to negative 30 degrees.” Jonathan’s toothy grin was a combination of fun and scary.
“Uh, why would the inside of a school ever need to be THAT cold?” asked Caitlyn. “That’s dangerously cold.”
“Well...I, uh...I’m not really sure. I’ve spent the last week inside the school, experiencing all the features. I guess if you needed to use the school as a freezer? That’s the perfect temperature for frozen food, right? Anyway, you all seem cool enough.” Jonathan chuckled to himself. The kids stared at him, hoping that he was kidding about the temperature.
Outside, a huge charter bus awaited them. Long, tinted rectangular windows lined the sides and the doors opened automatically as they approached. Inside, the bus was carpeted. Justin plopped into one of the tall, plush seats.
“Wow! These seats are as comfortable as my bed!” he said, bouncing on the seat cushion. Students eagerly picked their seats next to friends and stowed their bags in the ample space under the seats.
“I wish school buses were more like this!” said Jorge. “I’d gladly ride the bus every day!”
After a short bus ride, they pulled up to a gatehouse with a man inside. As soon as he saw Jonathan, he tipped his hat and waved them through. The kids, and the adults, eagerly peered through the windows to catch their first glimpse of the building. It was a medium gray with purple doors and purple trim. There were windows of all shapes and sizes lining the the building. Jonathan brought the bus to an abrupt stop next to the door, where a woman was dressed all in deep purple. Even her hair was purple.