A New Tim Harris Short Story Featuring Students need school libraries

In this blog post we’re thrilled to reveal a brand new “Mr Bambuckle approved” short story by award winning author Tim Harris. Polar Experiences explores the role of school libraries in fostering lifelong learners. Tim is a former primary school teacher of 15 years, and an advocate for school libraries, creativity and short stories. Please share this story on social media and in libraries, homes, hallways, trains, planes and automobiles – anywhere will help!

You can download a PDF copy here.

 

Polar Experiences

by Tim Harris

A narrative blog for Students Need School Libraries

November 2018

 PART ONE

Andrew read over his assignment sheet a second time before folding it neatly in half. He slid it into a green pouch titled ‘Antarctica Project’ and knocked on the classroom door.

‘Come in,’ said Miss Chan.

Andrew took a deep breath. He didn’t like interrupting his teacher during lunch. ‘I was wondering if you could help me with the Antarctica assignment?’

Miss Chan put down her bowl of microwave pasta and wiped her mouth. ‘Of course. What would you like to know?’

‘I need to find out about research stations near the South Pole … but I don’t really know where to start.’

‘Have you tried a Google search?’

‘Yeah, Dad and I searched last night but it was hard to find anything.’

‘Hmm … okay … Let me think for a moment.’ Miss Chan smiled. She was good like that – always taking the time to help her students.

Andrew fiddled with one of the buttons on his shirt while he waited. He studied the bookshelf behind his teacher’s desk. There were a few titles he’d read before, but nothing had been added to the collection in months. He made a mental note to re-borrow his favourite book for reading homework. It was better than not reading at all.

‘I’ve got it,’ said Miss Chan, snapping Andrew out of his thoughts. ‘Mr Dockery has a pile of books about the continents. He’s running chess club in his classroom at the moment, so you should pop over while you can catch him.’

‘Thanks, Miss Chan.’

-----------------------------------

‘Excuse me, Mr Dockery, Miss Chan said you have some books about the consonants …’

Mr Dockery looked up from the chess board, confused. ‘Consonants? Didn’t you learn basic spelling in grade one?’

Andrew looked blankly at the teacher.

‘What exactly did Miss Chan say?’ said Mr Dockery.

‘She was helping me with the South Pole project. She said you have some books.’

Mr Dockery laughed. ‘Oh, continents! You want books about the continents. Have a look on my desk and see what you can find. But don’t take the books out of my room as I need to use them next week.’

There were four books on the teacher’s desk:

Geography: The Big Picture

           Seven Continents

           Around the World in 100 Photos

           Time Tips for Teachers: How to Claim Back Your Weekends

Andrew figured he didn’t need the last book, but he grabbed the others and plonked on a beanbag in the corner of the room. He opened the first book and flicked through the pages. There were a few pictures of deserts and rainforests, but not much else. He shouldn’t have expected too much from a skinny early-years reader.

The second book was slightly more promising. He found six pages about Antarctica, but was disappointed to discover the only information was about animals and icebergs.

He thumbed half-heartedly through the third book, managing to find a nice photo of the South Pole at sunset. Perhaps he could draw something similar on his assignment poster.

The bell rang and Mr Dockery ushered the students out of the room.

-----------------------------------

Andrew tried the internet again that night. He was growing more and more frustrated with the difficulty of the language on each website he tried.

‘Why can’t they write stuff kids can understand?’

‘Just print out a few pages and change some words,’ said his father. ‘It is about research stations, so it must be what you need.’

‘Yeah … I suppose so.’

Andrew printed out about a dozen pages from the website, then spent the next few weeks chipping away at his poster design. He neatly copied some of the information from his print-outs at the bottom of the poster, being sure to switch some of the words with others he found in an old thesaurus. He wasn’t entirely sure what he was writing about, but there were some statistics and quotes, so he guessed he was on the right track.

He was pleasantly surprised when Miss Chan’s feedback came through.

 Congratulations on a fantastic assignment, Andrew! I was so impressed with your initiative when you asked for help. The poster looks great and you have included lots of good information about South Pole research stations. It’s great to see you forming learning habits!

PART TWO

Mia shoved the assignment sheet in her bag and ran to the handball courts. If she was fast enough, she might just get dibs on the squares in the shade.

‘Reserved!’ she announced, just before a boy in grade five got there.

‘Great job, Mia,’ said Kenisha, joining her on court.

Mia bounced the tennis ball to her friend. ‘Did your class get an assignment too?’

‘Yeah, we have to find out about one of the continents.’ Kenisha hit the ball back.

‘Same with us. Mrs Blackmore just gave us the sheet. I’m going to make a poster about research stations in Antarctica.’

The girls played a few rallies, before Kenisha stopped the ball suddenly in its tracks.

‘What is it?’ said Mia.

‘Your class has library after lunch,’ said Kenisha. ‘You should get a head start on the assignment.’

‘Yeah, nice thinking. Now, pass the ball.’

-----------------------------------

Mia’s class entered the library quietly and made themselves comfortable on the blue rug by the window. The teacher-librarian, Mrs Grey, sat in front of them, a pile of new books on her lap.

‘I thought we might try something different this week,’ said Mrs Grey. ‘I’ve selected some of the recent arrivals, and you can vote for which one you’d like me to read from.’

Mrs Grey showed the class the covers of the books by lining them up on a table. She told the students about each one; the general synopsis, the genre, who the author was, and any interesting reviews she had read.

‘I finished this one last night,’ said Mrs Grey, pointing to a book near the end of the table. ‘Henry, I think you’d enjoy it too. Okay, let’s have a vote.’

Democracy triumphed as the class voted for a book about some children who discover their mother is an international super-spy.

Mia played with a loose thread on the rug as Mrs Grey read aloud. She loved these story sessions – as did all of the students in her class. There would no doubt be a fight to see who would borrow the book, but the librarian would offer reserved tickets for those who missed out.

Mrs Grey finished the first chapter. ‘Would anyone like to borrow one of the new books?’

Two dozen hands shot in the air.

‘Okay, let’s sort out what everyone wants. After that, we’ll have about fifteen minutes left for borrowing.’

-----------------------------------

‘Excuse me, Mrs Grey?’

Mia was standing at the end of one of the bookshelves. Borrowing time was almost over and she wanted to get a head start on her assignment.

‘How can I help you?’ said the librarian.

‘I need to find out about research stations near the South Pole … but I don’t really know where to start.’

Mrs Grey pointed to the next shelf over. ‘We have a number of books that might help you. Follow me.’

The librarian led the girl to a row of fiction books and selected three off the shelf.

Life in Antarctica

The Poles

The Coldest Continent

Mrs Grey gave the books to Mia. ‘Each one should be perfect for your grade level. We have a few others if you’re up for a challenge.’

‘Thanks, Mrs Grey.’

‘If you come in tomorrow at lunch time, I can show you how to search the library database.’

‘Okay.’

Mrs Grey’s eyes suddenly lit up. ‘You enjoyed Pax by Sarah Pennypacker, didn’t you?’

Mia nodded.

‘You’d probably also like Stay by Jesse Blackadder. It’s all about the life of a fibreglass guide dog in and around a research station in Antarctica. You might remember the author visited our school a few years ago.’

‘Could I borrow that book too?’

-----------------------------------

Mia visited the library the following day to learn how to search the database. It was much easier than she thought and she found an extra book about Antarctica.

Mrs Grey also showed her the digital video service. ‘If you have the internet, you can access the videos from home. We have a few documentaries about the South Pole.’

Mia spent the next few weeks chipping away at her poster. She read information from the fiction books, devoured the novel and watched an online video. She neatly wrote everything she could think of on her poster – which was quite a lot – and squeezed in a couple of photos she printed off from the internet. She even had enough time to hound her mum to order her the latest book by Jesse Blackadder.

She was pleasantly surprised when Mrs Blackmore’s feedback came through.

 Congratulations on a fantastic assignment, Mia! It is clear you thoroughly researched the topic and made use of library resources. I enjoyed seeing you take ownership of your learning. It’s great to see you forming learning habits! Mrs Blackmore

 

About the Author

Tim Harris is one of the most exciting children’s authors in Australia. His first series of books, Exploding Endings, will have primary-aged readers both captivated and laughing out loud. The first book in the series, Painted Dogs & Doom Cakes, was awarded Honour Book at the 2017 KOALAs. His second series, Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables, contains his trademark quirkiness, mixed with a touch of poignancy. The lead book was awarded a CBCA Notable in 2018 and was shortlisted for the 2018 REAL Awards.

T witter and Instagram - @timharrisbooks

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