No Ordinary Science Fair: A Mystery

No Ordinary Science Fair: A Mystery

by T. J. Lehr


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No Ordinary Science Fair: A Mystery by T. J. Lehr

Bradley is an eighth-grade student who works hard. When he starts this year’s science fair project, Bradley cannot explain the questions and suggestions written on buff sticky notes that mysteriously show up in his notebook. When sticky notes keep appearing, Bradley sets out to solve the mystery. His search even tackles rumors of tunnels in his big old school building.

Bradley is a smart kid who has been identified as having a learning disability. As readers follow Bradley’s adventure to solve the mystery, he shares with them some of what he learned about learning disabilities and how he has adapted to succeed in middle school in spite of his challenges. Students with disabilities may identify with Bradley’s experiences. Students who are not familiar with disabilities might gain insights into what learning disabilities are and what it can be like for their peers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781546205357
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 08/31/2017
Pages: 130
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.28(d)

Read an Excerpt


"Hey, Bradley, Check it out. Scott's going to lock himself in his locker!" It was Dillon.

Dillon was a kid I got to know a lot better when he was working in Ms. Baxter's room. I thought Dillon was a fun kid. He made me think of Carrot Top. I'd seen the comedian a couple times on TV. Dillon's red hair made that comparison easy.

Almost everybody at B Lunch was done eating and had tossed their trash in the many plastic trash containers. I'd sat back down just before Dillon rushed over. At least two dozen of us eighth graders rushed out of the cafeteria toward the lockers in the 1400 wing on the second floor of Lincoln Middle School.

Scott got bored when life was going too smoothly. Those were the times he would jump head-first into something that would break up the monotony. Scott told me that his mother would joke that he thought his mission was to keep things from getting dull. In reality, Scott was just very impulsive. It seemed to me that Scott just liked being the center of attention – most of the time, at least.

I tried to get to the front of the pack. I'm not sure if it was because I didn't want to miss whatever was going on or if I wanted to make sure he didn't make too big a fool of himself. I'd been in school with Scott since Kindergarten. Since we moved up to the middle school two years ago, we got to be good friends. I would go along with Scott's crazy stuff. Hanging around with Scott made that easier. If he was the big show, I got to lay back. Over the years, some teachers told my parents I was shy. I didn't get that. I wasn't shy, I just didn't like attention too much. I'd much rather just stay in the background most of the time. I didn't think people would be that interested in what I had to say anyway.

I couldn't imagine doing a lot of the stunts Scott got involved in, but I had to admit a lot of them were funny.

Scott and I didn't have much in common. In fact, in nearly every way we seemed exactly opposite. But, as it happens with friendships, it worked for us. I guess we were like complementary angles.

Our whole swarm ended up right in front of Scott's locker. Scott's reputation for doing weird stunts was known among all Eighth Grade. Scott was a good-hearted kid. His antics were never mean and weren't destructive. Well, except for the time he accidently broke a glass door pole vaulting with another kid's crutch. Nobody wanted to see him get hurt or get into trouble. They just appreciated Scott breaking up the day.

Scott, with all the pageantry of an astronaut ready to launch, stepped to his locker. Madison, who was the editor of Lincoln Letters, the school's newsletter, pretended to be a reporter and used her cell phone as a mic. She really did a great job. Her interview seemed very natural because she often read the student news portion of the daily announcements.

"Scott, can you tell our worldwide television followers why you are undertaking this dangerous stunt today?"

Scott played along. "Well, Madison, since we have gotten almost through middle school without a student actually being stuffed in a locker, I felt it was my responsibility to demonstrate that it is possible. Generations to come will want to talk about this. If I don't ever get out, I hope people will understand."

Other students trained their camera phones on the event, most using their favorite app to post photos on line. Some were even streaming it.

After the interview, Scott dramatically turned and stepped into his locker. Once inside, it was obvious that he couldn't turn around so he backed out and stepped backwards into the locker. Scott could make bloopers look like it was just what he intended to do. He even made the way he had to crouch down to fit under the locker shelf look planned. Scott waved and gave a thumbs up. His excited fans returned the gestures.

He started a countdown. "10 ... 9 ... 8 ... 7 ... 6 ... 5"

Scott reached out to pull the door shut. He discovered there was no way to pull the door hard enough to latch the door. He asked for an assistant to help and continued the countdown.

"4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... 0"

At zero, many hands eagerly reached to slam the locker shut. The door slamming was super loud. If it sounded that loud to us, I could only imagine what it was like to Scott inside.

Kids who thought Scott was funny and those who thought he was just showing off all cheered and applauded. The classrooms on that wing were mostly empty during B Lunch, but a few kids tried to shush the crowd. We worried that too much noise would get the attention of a security guard or a teacher.

After a few seconds locked in the locker, Scott discovered that there was no way to open a door from the inside. We all clearly heard Scott even over the applause and laughter. "I can't open the door. Somebody get me out of here!"

This was too good for anyone to pass up. One kid mockingly said, "What? We can't hear you. Say it again, Scott"

Scott could clearly be heard saying in a very angry voice, "OK. Very funny. Get me out of here."

Others picked up on it with, "What did he say?" "I can't hear him." "I think he said he liked it in there and wants to stay. Let's let him."

Madison came up with the clincher. "OK, Scott. We'll leave you alone if that's what you want. You hang in there. Oh gosh, look at the clock. We need to get to class. I didn't think you could afford to miss fifth period again."

Making sure she was off to the side so Scott couldn't see her through the slits in the locker door, Madison put her finger up to her lips to get the crowd to be very quiet. She made a motion for everyone to move away from the front of the locker. We all understood exactly the joke she was setting up, the obliging group pretended to leave for class. A few called to Scott.

"See ya, man." And, "Bye, Scott. Great show."

After three or four minutes of Scott being in his locker, we moved back and someone opened Scott's locker. I was surprised at how loud the laughter was when the door opened. Scott's face let everyone know he was plenty mad and embarrassed. He rattled off a string of cuss words. His cuss word vocabulary was extensive and he used it freely, usually when only other kids were around.

In middle school, a lot of energy goes into feeling grown up. Adults are always telling us to act grown up and act more mature. That sounds like a good idea until – you tried it. You'd say something like adults did and you'd end up in trouble. I bet every kid in school got the old, "Don't talk to me like that. You're just a child" talk right when wanting to feel mature was important.

I knew Scott was about as mad as I had ever seen him. I suggested that he throttle it back a little. "Cool off. You walked right into that one." I was pretty sure that if either one of my parents had heard me say any of the swear words he was using, he or she would have killed me.

As upset as Scott was this time he was careful to cuss his tormentors out just loud enough to make sure they heard, but not so loud that he would be reported to the office – again. Scott was not used to being on the receiving end of jokes.

"OK, boys and girls, we need to hurry to class so we can become educated and productive citizens." In a serious, adult sounding voice, Dillon tried to mimic a teacher. It was his way of giving everyone in the hall a heads up that he saw Clarence, one of the custodians was walking toward the group which was still laughing about Scott's antics.

"That's a wonderful idea for all you productive citizens." It was Clarence. The way he said it, everyone was sure he knew they were up to something sneaky. Somehow, Clarence seemed to know everything that kids were up to. Most of us liked to joke around with Clarence. Nobody seemed to know much about him except his first name and that he was a janitor. For all we knew, he lived in the school. Even though he seemed old to us, he had a lot of energy and was in a good mood. He had a way of giving advice and suggestions that was easy to take. His last name started with W and ended with ski. In between were a bunch of consonants and vowels that didn't seem like they could possibly make a word. We never heard anybody even try to say his last name. Everybody just called him Clarence. Most of us liked the way he seemed to know a lot of us by our names. I suppose it was because we'd been at Lincoln for three years.

Clarence looked right at Scott. "Good afternoon, Scott," he said knowingly. "How are you doing?"

"Uh, fine," Scott answered cautiously.

"What's new?"

Scott knew he'd been busted but he decided to play innocent. "Nothin' really. Same old, same old. How about you, Clarence?"

Clarence just smiled. "I haven't been doing anything interesting either. You have a nice day." Clarence walked away.

I stepped toward Scott. "Sweet! You are crazy, Dude. We need to get to class."

Scott wasn't quite ready to give up being mad but after a couple seconds I saw a little smile. "Up high." I put my right hand up for a high five. I'm a couple inches taller than Scott. His exaggerated leap was more than enough to return my gesture. "I'd ask if you need anything from your locker, but I guess you don't have to." I laughed, Scott became his usual happy self. He poked me in the rib and we headed to our classes.

Scott and I were in different fifth period classes. It was OK that we could walk at least part way together. As soon as we walked away from his locker, he started explaining what getting locked in was like.

Scott was talking very fast. "I knew I had to get out. I couldn't risk yelling until someone let me out. I didn't know if you guys were evil enough to really walk away or if you were kidding. If security or a teacher heard me, I would have some serious explaining to do. I don't need any more of that kind of attention. I'd really feel like an idiot if I had to admit to the Principal how I got in the locker. He would never let me live that down. Even as mad as I was, I wouldn't snitch on my good friends for leaving me in there." The way he emphasized "good friends" he was making it clear I should have rescued him.

Scott continued his rapid fire recounting of his predicament. "I really wanted to get out of there. I didn't think I could stay in the locker much longer. The kids were right. Ditching any more classes could get me in big trouble with teachers. I think the Principal has my mom on speed dial. One more call from Mr. Willcox and I'm dead."

Scott's speech slowed a bit. He looked right at me and asked, "Do you have any idea how hot and smelly it is in a locker?"

"No, not really. I can't remember ever being stupid enough to lock myself into one," I said with more than a little sarcasm.

Scott ignored my comment and continued, "Plus, it was getting hot and painful all scrunched up in there. Except for getting into the amusement park for the little kids' price, this was about the only time I've been glad I was almost the shortest kid in eighth grade.'

I got to my fifth hour Science room and stopped. "Later, Dude."

Scott kept walking. "Later."


After school, Scott and I walked out together. "What was up with the locker stunt?" I asked. A lot of the people who knew Scott thought of him as a person who didn't always think things through before he acted, but this one even surprised me. "Why the locker? Why now?" I wondered.

"I don't know. Last night my mom told me I had to go through a couple boxes of old elementary school junk. She said I should keep what I wanted and put it away. I was supposed to toss anything I didn't want. There were old tests and assignments from all the way back in Fifth Grade. I don't know why she kept any of that stuff. I didn't remember hardly any of it.'

Scott continued, "A couple things I came across were Mr. Nolan's handout from the orientation to middle school. Remember? Check it out. I brought a picture that was in the box. This was me in Fifth Grade. Do you remember Mr. Nolan coming to our room then?"

I hadn't thought about our middle school orientation for a long time, but I could remember some things about it.

"Oh sure," I said. "Remember what a big deal going to middle school seemed like back then? Geeze, that seems like a long time ago. Nice picture! You looked even dorkier back then! I thought the sixth graders looked really little this year. I guess we were that little when we started middle school."

Thinking back, except for a few awkward moments along the way, life at Lincoln Middle School had gone pretty well. Well, navigating the social scene had gone pretty well anyway. The academic side of things definitely had its challenges.

The more we talked, the more I remembered about the orientation meeting. It was in May when we were in fifth grade and students were thinking about summer vacation. The idea was to get students ready to go to a new school in the fall. Well the school would be new to us at least. In fact, it was an old school. It had been the area high school. Several years ago, when the school district built a new high school, it converted the old high school into the middle school. The two story, red brick building was way bigger than my elementary school. Even before we started thinking about it being my school, I knew where it was and what it looked like. It was near the center of town so we went past it all the time when my family was going somewhere. My parents would point it out, saying, "That's your new school, Bradley."

After about a million times going past, I had to say, "OK, got it."

I remembered feeling anticipation, excitement and dread all mixed together when I thought about going to Lincoln. Most of us fifth graders had heard stories about what the older kids did to sixth graders in the bathrooms and how often the older kids pushed sixth graders into lockers and slammed the door.

My older brother Collin wasn't much help. I made the mistake of asking him about sixth grade. I asked if the stuff we heard about really happened. He just smiled and gave an evil laugh. One time when we were talking about going to the middle school he just said, "And don't believe any of those stories about tunnels."

That definitely got my attention. "What tunnels? Where? Where do they go?" I wanted to know more.

Collin responded with a kind of ominous, "Just forget I ever said anything. There aren't really any tunnels."

Over that summer, I begged my brother to give me some kind of explanation about the tunnels. He never gave me any satisfaction.

I was very aware how much joy my brother got from messing with me. We had always shared a bedroom. From an early age, Collin took any opportunity to show me that he was older, smarter and in charge. One of Collin's favorite ways to drive me nuts was making spooky sounds after the lights were out or telling scary stories. I figured out that Collin took great joy keeping me just a little off balance. How much of what he said was true was one of my biggest family challenges.

When our parents were around, they would usually come to my rescue with a, "Quit messing with your little brother." Or "You're supposed to be the more mature one." In our bedroom, I was on my own. Besides, being younger, I desperately wanted to feel more independent and did not want to have my parents rescue me. "I can handle this!" I would tell myself as convincingly as I could.

I grudgingly had to consider that Collin might know something. He was a high school junior. He had been a good student all the way through school. He always got really good grades. He was good in any sport he tried and was elected Student Council president as a junior. I thought Collin could do everything. Sometimes it was frustrating. He was a lot of things I would never be.

I got back to thinking about what I remembered from the orientation in fifth grade.

Besides the counselor, there were some eighth graders who were part of the orientation. They came to our classroom and arranged themselves in front of the class. One girl, who was introduced as the Student Council President gave a nice welcome. It sounded pretty rehearsed, but that might be expected. There were four elementary schools that fed into Lincoln Middle School. Each school had three or four Fifth grade classrooms so somebody must have done this talk a whole lot of times. Another girl explained what a daily schedule would be like. I paid attention when she explained that students were put into classes from all the elementary schools and not much could be done to make sure people were with their elementary school friends. I wasn't sure how I felt about that. I had been in classes with most of the kids in my school since kindergarten.

An eighth grade boy with the group told about sports and clubs. He showed us a list on Power Point. Science Club sounded interesting. And they did have a school soccer team.


Excerpted from "No Ordinary Science Fair"
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Copyright © 2017 T. J. Lehr.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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