A history of potential events as chronicled by Steven Coburn-Griffis

Chapter One

Friday, March 16, 2018

The students in Ms. Raczkowski’s 7th Grade Earth Sciences class at Gateway Middle School weren’t themselves.

They were quiet. They were attentive. They were focused.

That is not to say that these were bad kids, troublemaking kids, just that they were kids: twitchy, jittery, chatty, ready to jump and dance and play kids with bodies that all too often outran their brains.

But not on this particular day. Each sat up straight in his or her Smartt chair, their faces awash in the glow from their Smartt desks, eyes firmly fixed on the big Smartt screen at the front of the room. If asked for an example of “anticipation,” every Smartt desk in the school would have burned with a picture of Ms. Raczkowski’s 7th Grade Earth Sciences classroom as it was at that very moment.

Clearly, this was unusual, but it was an unusual day. You just had to look at the way the big Smartt screen at the front of the room was bubbling a silvery blue to know that.

A soft chime sounded and an image of a turning Earth filled the big Smartt screen that covered most of the front wall. The round ball of Earth was blue and green and brown and white and it spun against a black backdrop of space. As it continued to turn, a familiar voice began talking to anyone and everyone listening.

“Earth,” the voice said, and then paused for dramatic effect. During that pause, every single boy and every single girl sitting at every single Smartt desk in Ms. Raczkowski’s classroom felt the tickling itch of that familiar voice and asked themselves, Who? Who is that? I know that voice; know it almost as well as my own.

“Earth,” the voice continued, “is a wonder, a unique and radiant jewel travelling in its elliptical path around the sun. In the whole of our solar system, from Mercury to Neptune, there is no other planet like Earth.”

On the Smartt screen, the Earth stopped spinning and began to blur, distorting in form from the round sphere of planet Earth to something quite a bit more oval in shape.

“And what is it that makes Earth so special? So rare? So blue?”

The blurred blob on the screen continued to change shape, gaining definition and becoming clearer and clearer until it had morphed into the face of a man. And not just any man, but a man who was very familiar to the kids in Ms. Raczkowski’s 7th Grade Earth Sciences class: Bart Butterman, host and quizmaster of the game show Bart’s Big Brain, filmed right nearby their very classroom in Ohio.

Bart Butterman was grinning his famous grin, his face filled the big Smartt screen from top to bottom and side to side.

“So, do you know?” Bart Butterman asked. “Do you know what makes Earth extraordinary?”

He paused for just a beat and — although if you had asked anybody watching Bart Butterman in that classroom, they would have said it was impossible — his grin grew even bigger.

“Water!” he crowed.

Chapter One questions

1. Why do you think the word smart is spelled with two letter t’s in the story? Can you think of other brand names that are deliberately misspelled?

2. Current classroom technology includes smartphones and smartboards. In Ms. Raczkowski’s classroom three years from now, students sit in Smartt chairs at Smartt desks. Use your imagination to decide what this chair and desk can do and how they might help you learn.

3. Look at a globe and a map of the United States. Using the scale of distance, how far are you from a large body of water (something bigger than the nearest reservoir).

Chapter One vocabulary words


Earth Sciences