Chapter One Second Chance
You know it’s science fair time when you see posters in the hallway showing kids with cool projects and people looking amazed. Erupting volcanoes. Soda bottle tornadoes. Bouncy eggs. As I checked out the pictures, a grin stretched across my face.
Soon I wasn’t in the hallway of Brookside Elementary anymore. I could see myself onstage saying thank you as someone handed me a golden medal. Usually, I didn’t care about winning. But this was different. This was my do-over. I had to get it right.
Last year, I created a switch that controlled the flow of electricity and turned a light bulb on and off. I couldn’t wait to set it up and let my friends try it out. Everybody said I was gonna get one of the spots to represent our school in the regional competition.
But as I walked around, I saw other projects that put mine to shame. I cheered for the winners, but walked away knowing I could have done better. I promised myself I would try harder this year. I was a future scientist—time to show it.
“What’s up, Miles?” my best friend RJ said. I almost forgot he was standing next to me. “You’re staring at that poster like it’s a puzzle you got to figure out. You coming to class?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Just thinking about the science fair. I’m going to be ready.”
We entered Miss Taylor’s sunny classroom and tucked our backpacks in our cubbies. My friend Jada was putting hers away, too. Jada and I were in science club together. I knew she would be as psyched as I was about the fair.
“You know what time it is?” I asked.
“Yep,” she said, her braids and beads bouncing as she nodded. “Science fair. I want to do something really special. I’m getting started on my project as soon as I get home.”
“I know you’ll come up with something great.”
“You will, too,” Jada replied. “Got any ideas?”
As we headed to our seats, I wondered what I might do. It had to be something interesting and creative that would wow the judges. What science question could I ask and investigate?
After the announcements, Miss Taylor hit the chime that called us to the orange-and-blue rug for our morning meeting. Chirr.
“Who saw something different on the walls when you came into school this morning?”
Lena’s hand shot up.
“Science fair posters.”
Smiles and cheers mixed with a few frowns and groans.
“I see we have different feelings about it,” Miss Taylor said. “That’s okay. Remember there’s no perfect project. It’s all about learning something new and having fun. You all can do that, right?”
My friends gave thumbs-up and nodded. Miss Taylor always knew what to say.
“Can we do anything we want, Miss Taylor?” Simone asked as the glitter on her shirt caught the light. “I want to make something that shows my shine.”
“Sure, Simone,” she said, smiling. “As long as you follow the guidelines. I’ll put the details and schedule in everyone’s take-home folder. Your projects are going to be fantastic. This year, you can work on your own or in teams.”
Teams? I looked at Jada and saw her looking at me.
“Want to work together?” I mouthed.
Yes! There would be no stopping us.
As we got up, I saw Gabi talking to Jada. Then, I felt a nudge in my side.
“You know we gotta be a team,” RJ said.
I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. RJ didn’t care about science. I tried to think quickly.
“I already promised Jada I’d work with her.”
“That’s okay. She can be on the team, too. We’re going to the best.”
I sighed and hoped I was worrying for nothing. Maybe RJ would get into it and come through on the work.
Jada came up to my seat.
“Gabi wants to work with us, too,” she said. “Is that okay?”
I smiled weakly.
Gabi was cool, but having a team of four was harder to manage than a team of two. What if we wanted to do different projects? What if we didn’t get along? This team thing wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.
Copyright © 2022 by Kelly Starling Lyons: Illustrated by Wayne Spencer. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.