A trip to the Vancouver Aquarium

This term, we went on a field trip to the Vancouver Aquarium. We learned and saw a lot of things. We even touched the pelt of a trash bear. A trash bear is a bear that goes to cities to eat trash. They usually tranquilizer them and take them away from the city, but, bears are very good at smelling and if they keep on going back, it could become dangerous for the people and themselves which is way they get killed. We arrived at the aquarium late in the evening and we were blessed with the opportunity to sleep with the fishes. Before our sleepover, we participated in a workshop where we got to explore different animals and with the help of an expert, we were able to learn a lot about them. We got to touch animals like starfish, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, and hermit crabs. There was also a room that we walked through that is only open to staff that had a large variety of jellyfish. It was a cool experience that we normally wouldn’t have. After the sleepover, we were able to explore the aquarium before it opened up to the public. During that time, we could see a trainer training the dolphin to do tricks. We enhanced our understanding of aquatic life, habitats, and learned about survival and biology of different animals during this field trip.

A goodbye letter from Ms. Neumann and Mr. Murray

Dear Parents, Guardians, and incredible BETA Minischool students,

It is hard to believe that two years have come and gone and unfortunately our time as the teachers in Minischool is coming to a close. With summer approaching so quickly, we are all awaiting time in the sun to rest, relax, and adjust to change. The students have earned a well-deserved break and we hope that they have the chance to find new interests, hobbies, passions, and interests in their experiences over the summer.

 Looking back on the past two years, we have faced many challenges in adjusting to daily life of teaching advanced learners, but not a day has gone by that we have not grown more as teachers and mentors. Each day, there are students who share their passion with us, and their gifts enrich our lives. We are very thankful for every moment and opportunity we have had in this program.

Finally, we would like to thank all the parents and guardians who have made this program the success it grew to be over the past two years. With your support chaperoning field trips, delivering workshops in the classroom in various specializations, and offering a sounding block to our experiences, we were able to focus our energy to learning. From donating foods and materials, to constant support, love, and encouragement for your children, this program grew to support our students in remarkable ways. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for helping us reach out to the brilliant minds of these students. Because of your help in this program, we were able to give them an opportunity to be challenged while finding purpose and passion in their unique abilities.

Though we are moving on to new positions in the District, please know that you can still reach out to us for any questions or updates. We would love to hear where our students end up in the future and where their curiosities have guided them. We wish our students the best of luck pursuing their dreams!

What makes a child gifted and talented may not always be good grades in school, but a different way of looking at the world and learning. ~Chuck Grassley


Sam Murray Elixa Neumann
Humanities ~ 8/9 Scimatics ~ 8/9
sam.murray@burnabyschools.ca elixa.neumann@burnabyschools.ca


IDS Day is May 22nd!

Dear Burnaby School District Colleagues, Parents and Guardians,

                We, on behalf of the BETA Minischool at Alpha Secondary School, would like to invite you to join us for a day of learning. On May 22nd, BETA Minischool students will be presenting their Independent Directed Studies (IDS) in the small gym at Alpha Secondary School from 11:45 am – 3:00 pm and again from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Our students have been working on Independent Directed Studies projects since October and have spent 120 hours developing research on an inquiry question, developing a skill, examining potential careers, and developing technical writing.

                We invite you and/or your class to come to Alpha Secondary School to view the student’s projects and take part in this community of learning and sharing. If you are interested in attending, please send us an email to confirm your attendance.

                We look forward to seeing you at the IDS day!


BETA Minischool

Elixa Neumann Sam Murray Jady Robertshaw
Scimatics ~ 8/9 Humanities ~ 8/9 Humanities ~ 10
elixa.neumann@burnabyschools.ca sam.murray@burnabyschools.ca jady.robertshaw@burnabyschools.ca


A Travel Blog Story: by Kyle Brent

 “Hurry up, guys! We’re going to be late!”

    Kyle opened the door to a wardrobe and grabbed his coat. “Nah, we’ll be fine!” Kelvin replied nonchalantly from his bed, where he was laying on his stomach, watching a YouTube video on his laptop.

    “You know, we did spend about $4000 to fly all the way to Iceland,” Kyle pointed out. “You could probably survive without your electronics for a week as you… you know… explore?”

    “Kyle, what is this word that you speak of?” Kelvin replied, looking up briefly before going back to the video.

   “Never mind.”

    They were in a hotel room, at the beginning of their third day in Iceland. Already they had seen so many amazing sights: geysers, churches, waterfalls… it was crazy to think that the trip wasn’t even halfway over yet.

    His other roommate, Easton, had just put away his phone and was now getting up from the desk to put on some shoes. “Dude, Kelvin, Kyle’s right,” he agreed. “We need to go, now.”

    Kelvin looked away from the screen again, but just for a moment. “Dude, relax! We’ve got, like, ten minutes left!”

    Kyle glanced at his watch. Ms. Neumann, the leader and organizer of the entire trip, had told them to be down in the lobby by eight twenty. The time read 8:18. “Actually, we have two minutes, and I would’ve liked to be there at least five minutes early.”

    Kelvin looked up again. “Oh, dang. Okay, gimme a minute.” He closed his laptop and started opening his suitcase. Kyle sighed in exasperation. “I’m going down there now,” he said as he pulled open the door. “The key is on the table, so don’t forget to bring it down with you.” He closed the door behind him, shutting off the sound of Kelvin beginning an argument about the location of his Malteser chocolates.

    Sighing, he began walking down the hallway. Kyle liked this hotel better than the one at Reykjavík. In this one, the rooms and bathrooms were much larger, the floor was covered in emerald-green carpet, and the breakfast room wasn’t on the seventh floor—as he was happy to learn earlier that morning. All in all, this one was just cozier.

    Reaching the end of the hallway, Kyle turned right and descended a small staircase down to the ground floor. There, he turned around and walked past the staircase, making his way to the lobby. He could make out the faint smell of bread: breakfast was still being served to the other hotel residents.

    Walking in, he was able to tell right away that he was cutting it close to the deadline. Almost all forty-eight students were spread out around the room, sitting on couches or at tables while they waited. All of them came from Kyle’s school, Alpha Secondary School, either from Grade 8, 9, or 11, and about 65% of them were kids from BETA Minischool. BETA stood for Bringing Exception Thinking Alive, and it was a small class that branched off from Alpha, for students who preferred more in-depth and creative learning. Kyle was definitely one of those kids.

    Across the room, Kyle could see out the window, where their tour bus was parked at the side of the street, waiting to pick them up. They were traveling with an organization called EF Tours, which gave them their own bus and their own tour director, Yorick.

    Speaking of which, Kyle noticed that all of the adults were gathered in a nearby corner, checking off names on a clipboard as students entered. There was Ms. Neumann, the Scimatics teacher for BETA… Mr. Murray, the Humanities teacher for BETA… Mr. Rockwell, the Science Enriched Class teacher, from which several students had joined (including Easton and Kelvin)… Ms. Brovold, the business class teacher… Cynthia, a chaperone and the parent of two BETA students: Nica and Sage… Sean, a chaperone and the parent of another BETA student: Kyle… and finally Yorick, their tour director, who was full of amazing stories of the history and science of Iceland.

    “Hi, Ms. Neumann!” Kyle said as he passed her, waving. She replied, “Hey Kyle. Where’s the rest of your group?” He glanced back to the staircase, but there was no sign of them. “Good question,” he replied. “They should be down in a minute… hopefully.”

    “Okay,” Ms. Neumann said as she turned back around to talk with Yorick. Kyle gave a wave to his dad, who waved back, and then he made his way over to three students—Grade 9 BETA classmates Kevin, Michael, and Ryan—sitting at a table in the middle of the room, all staring at their phones. “Hello!” Kyle offered as he approached, and he got a grand total of one response. Kevin was the one that looked up from his phone, and said, “Oh hey, Kyle!” He looked back down at his phone just as quickly.

    “Hello, Kyle,” Michael said, his eyes not leaving the screen. Kyle leaned against the table, as none of the seats were available, and scanned the room. Most people were gathered in groups, chatting about how their nights went or looking at their phones. After about a minute, Easton and Kelvin emerged into the lobby. Ms. Neumann checked them off as they entered, and then walked to the front of the room, by the door.

    “Alright, can I have your attention, please?” she announced. After a few seconds, the conversations had died down, and she continued. “Alright! Now that everyone’s here, we can get going! We’re starting the day off with the lava museum, but it’s going to be very wet and rainy today… so I’m hoping that everyone has a jacket… yes?” She nodded slowly, scanning to see if there was anyone who was without their jacket or who was shaking their head. “Lovely. I think that’s everything…” she clapped her hands together and looked back at the other adults, and Yorick said, “Yeah! Let’s get on the bus!”

    Kyle chose to sit by himself on the bus; he wanted the window seat, and he wasn’t really in the mood to talk to anyone. Most rides, he just stared out the window, watching the incredible landscape go by.

    He was near the back of the bus, but there were speakers built into the ceiling that connected to a mic at the front, so he could hear what Yorick was saying very clearly. Kyle fastened his seat belt and placed his bag on his knees. He watched as other students made their way in at the front, slowly distributing themselves into the seats. He recognized most of them, and knew at least a quarter of them personally.

    Once everyone had taken their seats, the teachers made their way in, and then the doors closed. Mr. Murray stood, and shouted all the way to the back of the bus: “Red team!”

    This was part of an organization strategy that the teachers had employed: each adult had one “team” of eight students to keep track of. At Mr. Murray’s words, eight students who were scattered around the bus raised their hands. He counted them, and then sat back down, with a “Thank you!” The eight hands went down, and Sean stood up, shouting, “Green team!” Kyle raised his hand, and so did six others, scattered around the bus again. Sean counted the hands, frowned, and then shouted again, “Green team!”

    Kyle glanced around the bus, counting up the hands. One person hadn’t put their hand up. Who was missing? He looked over the seat in front of him, trying to spot someone in his group, but as soon as his eyes swept the aisle he knew who it was. “Kevin!!” he hissed. “Put your hand up!!”

     Kevin looked up from his phone, glancing around for only a second before realization dawned on his face. Cursing under his breath, he threw his hand up into the air, pocketing his device with the other. Sean counted the hands again, then sat down and said, “Thank you!”

    This happened a few more times as other chaperones stood and counted off their teams, and then once the teachers were satisfied, the bus rumbled to life.

    As they began their drive, Kyle reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small notebook. Minty-green in colour and about the size of his hand, he had brought this notebook wherever he visited, writing down the different things he saw and heard and learned so that he would remember them later. He opened it up to the beginning of the trip.

    On the first day, they had arrived at the airport in Keflavík bright and early: about 5 in the morning. Most of the students had ignored Ms. Neumann’s advice to sleep on the plane and spent the 7 hours of flight watching movies or playing on their own devices. Kyle himself had spent the first hour or so watching a movie, and the rest of the time attempting to get comfortable enough to sleep. Although he had tried for about five hours, he had probably only gotten an hour of actual rest.

    They had made their way from the airport to the tour bus, where they first met Yorick. From there, they drove to their first location: Vikingaheimer, a museum dedicated to Vikings. They were served breakfast—a large buffet with an assortment of cheese, crackers, bread, fish, cereal, and fruit—and then they were allowed to browse the museum. The actual building itself was awesome: there were two floors, but the main part of the second floor was a gigantic rectangular hole, so you could see the first floor through it. Hanging in that gap was a giant wooden boat crafted in the same design as the Vikings used, thousands of years ago. Visitors were allowed to look at the signs and information on the first floor, or go up to the second floor and actually board the boat! Kyle had learned a lot about the Vikings there, like how they were famous for being masters of the seas, but little was known about how there were able to navigate so well without the help of modern aids, or how the Vikings had used horsehair and walrus-hide ropes to rig their sails. That had been a cool start to the trip.

    After the Viking museum, the class had traveled out of Keflavík and into the capital city of Iceland: Reykjavík! There, they saw an incredible cathedral with a name harder to remember than the entire Periodic Table! It was called the Hallgrímskirkja, and its rugged and mountain-shaped looks were inspired by the landscapes and shapes that lava made when it cooled into basalt. There was even a massive organ inside, to undoubtedly play amazing music, although Kyle didn’t get to hear it work.

    That first day was stressful, cold, and very exhausting for everyone. The rest of it had been spent exploring the city, visiting incredible glass buildings or small, terrific hot dog stands to pass the time while they waited for their hotel to be ready. It was about a twenty-minute walk from the city to the hotel, but eventually everyone was able to arrive, unpack, eat dinner, and collapse into their beds.

    The second day was much more exciting and impressive. The class toured something called “The Golden Circle”: a small list of Iceland’s greatest sights and stops. Their first stop was a place called Þingvellir, a spectacular location where you could see Iceland’s amazing geography at work. Iceland was actually positioned across two diverging tectonic plates: the Eurasian plate and the North American plate. Both of the plates moved apart at a rate of 1cm per year, which meant that Iceland was constantly growing! Þinvellir was a place where a gigantic 6-kilometer-wide rift had opened up in between the two tectonic plates, and it was still sinking! They were able to take a walk through the world.

    Afterwards, the group headed to a place called Geysir, where they were able to explore, eat lunch, and then watch actual real-life geysers explode! Kyle, being the clueless nerd that he is, enjoyed learning about the science behind geysers: water heats up deep underground from nearby lava, ascending up through the limestone and passages. When there’s a bit of silica buildup that blocks the water, the pressure starts to get higher and higher, causing the water to reach its boiling point and remain a liquid. However, once the pressure gets high enough, the water is forced past the blockage and up through the cracks to the surface, instantly evaporating into water vapor and blasting up into the air!

    The next stop was Gullfoss, and that was one of Kyle’s favorites. Two enormous, breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls with a combined height of 32 meters and approximately 140 cubic meters of water flowing down every second: it was a sight to behold! It cast a bewildering sense of wonder and awe on Kyle as he stared down at its incredible turquoise and diamond colours; a mix of clear, fresh water and brilliant, bright ice for a magnificent display of nature.

   After that, Kyle’s tour went to a truly science-filled location: the Fridheimer Geothermal Greenhouse. Kyle learned a lot, there! He was jotting down notes and asking questions the entire time; it was a place where they grew different types of tomatoes, powered completely by geothermal activity! Geothermal wells were used to generate electricity for the special sodium lights and to heat fresh, mineral-filled ground water. The heated ground water was then used to both create a hot climate in the greenhouse and water the plants. There were bees circulating the area—Kyle didn’t really like that, but it was quite a smart system—and there were bugs imported from the Netherlands called Macrolophus flies, that would eat the harmful bugs’ larvae. That way, natural selection was keeping the plants safe, which was much more sustainable.

    Kyle also took notes about the different methods used to deliver nutrients to plants. There were two pipes attached to the tomato plants’ roots: one for water, and one for fertilizer. The amounts were kept track of by a computer, and everything worked like a well-oiled machine! It was impressive that humans could put together a system that sustained the plants off of renewable resources, using all sorts of different methods to optimize the performance and get the most out of the groundwater… was there no limit for what humans could invent next??

    After the greenhouse, they walked across the dirt road to a horse enclosure, where they learned about Icelandic horses! These had thick layers of fur and fat to survive winters, as Iceland’s climate is much more extreme at that time.

    In the past, a disease had swept through Iceland’s horses, almost wiping out all of them, and Icelanders were being very cautious about this happening again; sometimes, after visiting foreign lands, they would have to abandon their horses outside of Iceland to ensure there was no chance of a disease to spread.

    Finally, the class took the tour bus all the way down south to a city called Hvolsvöllur. That’s where they reached their second hotel, the much roomier and cozier one that Kyle was in now! They had eaten dinner, and then were left to their rooms, to work on their notes and relax.

    And then it was today! Kyle still couldn’t believe all of the things they had seen. And he was ready to see some more!

    The bus slowly rolled to a stop on the side of the road, pulling Kyle back into the present. “Are we already here?” he asked to nobody in particular. The microphone at the front of the room clicked on, and Yorick began speaking.

    “Alright… so, we have just arrived at the lava museum. It looks like it’s raining a bit outside, but just make your way down the path and into the front doors. And, uh… yeah! Enjoy your tour!” Kyle glanced out the window. Outside, he could see a field of basalt and cooled lava covered in a dense layer of green-yellow moss. The sky was covered in a thick overcast of greyish-white clouds, and there was a bit of a drizzle coming down.

    The mic clicked again, as Yorick handed it to Ms. Neumann. “Okay, duckies. Stay seated for just a moment, because we’re going to go over our museum etiquette and rules again!” Kyle heard several quiet groans from behind him.

    “So, what is a rule that we should follow when we’re in a museum, or on any type of tour, for that matter?”

    After a couple of seconds, someone at the front suggested, “No yelling?”

    “Yeah! Don’t yell is a good rule. I know there’s a few of my Minischool duckies that need to work on that…” She swept her gaze throughout the aisles near her, but since Kyle was near the back, she didn’t get to him.

    Not that I’m one of those people… Kyle thought. Hopefully…

    “Any other rules or guidelines?” Ms. Neumann asked.

    “No running?” someone else proposed.

    “Yes, no running as well! We want to be mindful of our surroundings, okay? We’re working on building a strong spatial awareness, and making sure that we’re not touching or pushing things that we aren’t supposed to. We also want to be respectful of the other people there; remember, we’re trying to make a good impression for Alpha. That means, no being rude to the speakers, and staying quiet so that I don’t have to ask you to be a million times, and only asking questions that you think will expand your learning or the learning of others around you, okay?

    “If I catch anyone being rude or running or shoving or doing anything that they shouldn’t be, they will be doing pushups until their arms fall off!” She looked around, making sure everyone understood. “Yee?” she inquired for confirmation. Kyle nodded, as did several other students around the bus.

    “Alright! Let’s go learn about lava!” Ms. Neumann gave the mic back to Yorick, and made her way down the stairs and out of the bus.

    Kyle stepped out of the bus, making his way across the concrete path to get out of the way of the next person. The air was much cooler outside, and it smelled fresher, too. He had left his bag in the bus, but brought his notebook and phone, to take as many notes and pictures as he needed. The rain was still coming down in a light drizzle, so he made his way down the pathway, past the bus.

    The building of the lava center looked both modest and impressive at the same time. It was a very blocky shape, but the walls were made from hundreds of thin, tall slits of wood, with a darker shade forming an odd shadowy shape throughout the front wall. The word LAVA was put up at the top of the building, in great big letters. Kyle walked down the path to the doors, and made his way through.

     Inside, a reception desk stood in the middle of a carpeted room. The walls were completely black, as was the ceiling (save for a few lights). A large cut-out of Iceland was hanging right above the central desk, with several layers getting smaller towards the center underneath, and a strip of bright while LEDs encircling the perimeter of each cut-out. “Wow!” Kyle exclaimed. “That’s cool!”

    Turning around, Kyle spotted his dad coming through the doors with Ms. Neumann. They stopped for a moment, as Sean snapped about three thousand pictures, and then they made their way over to the small crowd of students that had formed beside the reception desk.

    “Alpha students!” Ms. Neumann announced, cupping her hands around her mouth. “Find your team leaders!”

    Kyle walked over to Sean, watching everyone else make their way over. “Did you see that?” Sean asked him, pointing to the Iceland model… light… thing above the reception desk.

    “How could I not?” Kyle asked, smiling.

    “Pretty cool, huh?”
    “Uh, YEAH!”

    When all of the students had entered, Sean poked Kyle. “Okay, how many do we have?”

    Kyle stood on the tips of his toes, trying to recognize all of his groupmates. Okay, there’s Fu, Michael, Ryan, and Kevin… Roy’s over there, Easton’s coming this way. That’s… one, two, three, four, five, six, seven including me… where’s Kelvin? “We’re missing Kelvin.” He reported.

    “Okay…” Sean looked around, finding him with two other students: Sophie and Lola. “Kelvin!” he called, and Kelvin reluctantly made his way over to the group.

    At the front of the room, there was a set of doors, made out of a foggy glass that prevented anyone from seeing what was inside. There was an outline of Iceland painted on the door with several contours to show the topography.

    Suddenly, the doors slid open, allowing the first group of students—the ones in front of Kyle’s—to enter. “One group at a time!” Ms. Neumann said, and Kyle’s group hesitated, watching the doors shut. He caught a glimpse, though: a tunnel, illuminated only by a faint scarlet glow coming from one of the walls. Oooh, that looks cool!

    Kyle turned around, looking at the other students waiting behind him. Ms. Neumann was scolding Kevin about something to do with a broken GoPro (probably nothing important…), Mr. Murray was arguing with two BETA Students—Nica and Sage—about something to do with grammar, and Michael and Ryan were arguing with each other about something to do with Apple and Samsung.

    After about a minute, the doors slid open again, allowing Sean’s group through. As Kyle stepped inside, he and his dad both exclaimed, “Wooaaah…”

    The walls, roof, and ceiling were all a dull dark grey colour, except for the wall on their left: that was made up of hundreds of tall slits that were cut from the front to form a curving pattern that looked much like lava. There were red LEDs lining the bases of these slits, and they brightened and dimmed in wave patterns in time with the rumbling from hidden speakers, giving the effect that the wall was flowing like the molten rock it was imitating.

    Spread in breaks throughout the lava pattern were little blurbs of information. After Kyle had finished gaping at the spectacular display and design, he walked up to the first sign.

    When volcanoes erupt, they spout volumes of tephra and lava.

    Okay… Kyle made his way over to the second sign…

    Lava volume is the amount of molten rock expelled by a volcano.

    …and then to the third…

    Tephra volume is volcanic products like ash and pumice that fly through the air during an eruption.

    “Interesting…” Kyle remarked as he scribbled the information down in his notes. Beside him, his dad was taking picture left and right. He’s going to have fun sorting through all of those, Kyle thought.

    Continuing down the glowing red hall, the next few signs seemed to be ratings of tephra and lava volumes spewed out by different volcanoes that had erupted in the past. Interesting, but not note-worthy. Kyle strolled down the hall, reading the different ratings. In front of him, Roy was taking several dozen pictures on his phone, which was probably more efficient than writing everything down by hand. Whatever… note-taking is a useful skill to develop at a young age! Kyle thought to himself. Wow, that sounds like something Ms. Neumann would say.

    “Hey, Roy,” Kyle said as he approached.

    “Oh, hello.” Roy snapped a picture of a short section labeled Eyjafjallajökull. “I don’t think these graphs are part of our sustainability assignment, right?”

    “Yeah, I’m not taking notes on these,” Kyle replied. “It’s just a saying which volcanoes spewed how much death onto the Earth.”

    “I’m pretty sure that most of these are shooting liquid IDS.”

    “Ohhh, yeah, that makes sense!” Kyle laughed. IDS was a BETA Minischool project that required a student to study a single topic for 120 hours throughout the year, offering a final presentation at the end. This year wasn’t too bad; they were allowed to work on a skill, and Kyle had picked one that he really enjoyed: VR coding and game design. Last year, he had chosen to study neutron stars… after the first forty hours, that got about as fun as sitting in one of these erupting volcanos.

    Kyle continued down the hallway, emerging into a new room. Here, the walls and roof and floor were still dark black-grey—that seemed to be the theme—but the wall with the fancy lava patterns and red lights continued off until it reached the end of the room. The opposite wall had several projectors shining onto it, displaying facts and pictures of different types of earthquakes. In the center of the room, the top third of a giant globe sat in the ground, about two and a half meters across. Displayed on the globe was a large map of Iceland and its surrounding area, and there was a silver hand rail encircling the edge of the globe to stop people from walking on it. A large group of students were already standing at the edge.

    Suddenly, the students began rotating the hand rail, and it caused the map on the globe to change, displaying the outlines of tectonic plates and how they evolved and moved and crashed together over periods of millions of years. “Wow!!” Kyle exclaimed, making his way to the rail. While there were too many people at the rail for him alone to control the simulation, he could still enjoy what was being shown on the globe, and it was really cool!

    Turning to the other wall, he looked at the earthquake information. It showed the three types of earthquake zones, with short videos to show a simulation of how the tectonic plates interact. The first one was the fracture zone, which is when shear stress builds up because of two tectonic plates moving against each other. The second type was the rift zone, made from when tensile stress builds up from two tectonic plates moving away from each other. And finally, the volcanic belt: when volcanic eruptions or movement by magma causes an intraplate earthquake—one that doesn’t occur at the edge of the plate.

    Kyle spent a while jotting down the information in his notebook, and by the time he had finished, several groups had entered the room, and a few groups had already left. His dad had also caught up, and was again, taking pictures.

    After he snapped his last few photos, Sean announced, “Alright, green team! Are you ready to continue?” Kyle voiced his affirmation, and a few other team members nodded, so they headed into the next room.

    There was a short hallway going from the globe room to the next, and as soon as he stepped into the next chamber, Kyle was stunned. Again, the walls and floor were all black. The ceiling had the white outline of Iceland on it, and then extending down from the center was an enormous lava plume. About two meters across, made of what looked like paper, and lit up with internal red lights, the lava plume went straight down through the center of the room, where a giant rectangular hole led it right down another floor and into the ground. “Holy wow…” Kyle breathed, stepping forwards. Railings surrounded the hole to prevent people from going too far, so the room was less an actual room and more a walkway around a giant spine of lava.

    Behind him, Sean gasped when he entered, and then was back to his camera. Kyle made his way around the walkway, and found that there were signs on all four sides, offering information to support the awe-inspiring model. A rumble caught his attention, and he realized that there were sounds playing: distant rumbles of rock crumbling and moving to create a formidable atmosphere. He looked at the first sign.

    You are looking at the fiery heart of Iceland, modelled on scientific measurements of the magma up-flow beneath the island’s surface. Magma rises under the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, but the magma up-flow is strongest in the central areas of the country. That is where we can observe an additional source of magma – a powerful mantle plume. Geophysical surveys help to demarcate the hottest area of rising mantle rock, at a depth of 100 – 700 km, where the rock melts to some extent: Iceland’s fiery heart. The sounds you hear are recordings of tremors due to magma movements during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010. The frequency has been altered to suit the human ear.

    Oh. Okay, maybe the sounds aren’t just for atmosphere, Kyle thought. Although they do a pretty darn good job at making one.

    He looked up at the entrance again to see Ms. Neumann staring at the lava model with a huge grin on her face: she loved different ways to teach education, and this was an especially ingenious one.

    After the mantle plume room, the class was taken through a small series of winding paths in between displays and setups of fake lava, where they were able to learn about the different ways that lava is blasted from the core. Then, there was a room with the walls covered in projections about volcanos; students could point at different spots on the wall to open up little blurbs and information on the volcanos or cause one to erupt. Finally, to wrap up the lava museum, the class was shown an awesome video of magma and volcanos on a large movie screen.

    As the class was walking back to the bus, Ms. Neumann caught up with Kyle. “So, what is your main takeaway from this museum?” she asked him.

    “Um… lava is awesome?”

    Ms. Neumann laughed. “Right??”

    They walked for a moment, and then she said, “Your dad really liked the architecture of this building.”

    Kyle looked back at it. “Yeah, it’s pretty cool! It…” He trailed off, as a flash of light caught his eye.

    “It…?” Ms. Neumann pried, but Kyle had stopped. “What are you looking at?” she asked.

    “Do you see that?” Kyle pointed to a little white sparkle coming from the rocks beside the museum.

    “See what?”

    “That shiny thing over there!” Kyle jogged back up the path before Ms. Neumann could object, stopping by the rocks and kneeling down to inspect the item he spotted. The gleam was coming from a shiny object concealed under the pile of rocks, so he began digging through the pebbles with his hands. Ms. Neumann and Sean came up behind him, looking over his shoulder to see what he was doing.

    “What is that?” Sean asked.
    “I dunno,” Ms. Neumann replied. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out!”

    Kyle dug his hands around the sides of the object and pulled it as hard as he could. The ground gave just a little, and he eagerly redoubled his efforts. Finally, the rocks reluctantly fell apart, as if hesitant to let the item leave its clutches. The three of them all gasped at the same time.

    The item was a crystal-white gemstone, about eight centimeters long and three centimeters wide. It was a sort of log shape, but hexagonally cut, and the faint light from the sun caused it to glow a whitish-blue colour, casting an astonishing pattern on the ground in Kyle’s shadow.

    “Wow!” Sean exclaimed. “What is it?”

    “It looks sort of like quartz,” Kyle said, staring at it. “But quartz doesn’t have that fiery colour and light.”

    “It looks like it’s glowing…” Ms. Neumann whispered in awe. She held out her hands. “Can I?”

    Kyle carefully handed it to her, and she brought it up to her face, examining it closely.

    “I doubt it’s diamond, either,” Kyle continued. “Diamonds that large are super rare and expensive… although I suppose it could be calcite. Again, though, that flare is too extreme… I can’t think of a gem that bright.”

    “It’s beautiful,” Ms. Neumann said. She handed it to Sean, who took a look at it again. “Nice find!!”

    “Thanks!” Kyle replied, still looking at it. “If I had to guess, I’d say it’s white sapphire, but it really does look like its shining light!”

    “That’s so cool!” Sean exclaimed, handing it back to Kyle. Ms. Neumann turned around, looking at the bus.

    “Oh! It looks like we’re leaving!” she said, beginning to walk towards the bus. “C’mon!”

    Kyle tucked the stone into his pocket and ran after them, still dazed at what he just found.

    As the bus began its drive to its next location, Kyle pulled the stone out of his pocket to examine it again. It was cool to the touch, and about as heavy as you’d expect for a large, solid stone. As soon as it left his jacket, though, it caught the light from outside and cast a brilliant white-blue pattern on the seat in front of him. “Wow…” he whispered. I wonder how I could get this identified… maybe a gem collector? Or a gem store? Do they have these here? He looked over his seat to where the adults were sitting, way up at the front. Maybe I can ask Yorick if there’s anywhere I could identify this. Or maybe he even knows what it is!

    As if Kyle’s thoughts had been heard, the speakers crackled on and Yorick’s voice came overhead. “Alright… so, right now we’re headed towards the black sand beach, down at Vík. Um, it’s going to be a bit of a long journey, so feel free to watch out the window, at Iceland’s landscape. I’m going to be talking a little bit about Iceland’s history with trees, so for those of you who want to listen… enjoy.”

    Kyle pulled out his notebook and a pencil, and began note-taking as Yorick started his story. “Back in 870, when the Norse first began to move to Iceland, they saw a place full of trees… and they did what they were used to doing, which is cut them down. They would use this wood for fuel, or for making houses, or they would cut the trees down to make space for farming. They didn’t realize that Iceland’s climate was a little bit different. The soil in Iceland is actually full of nutrients, because it comes from volcanic activity and magma; however, it is very thin and relied on the vegetation to prevent it from being washed away. After the Norse cut down the trees, the roots in the ground died and lost their ability to hold the soil together, allowing the wind and storms to blow and wash the exposed topsoil away. The harsh climate makes it extremely difficult for younger saplings plant naturally and grow, so when the Norsemen came and cut down the trees, they actually triggered a country-wide ecological disaster, which we’re still seeing the effects of today. Since 870, the amount of Iceland that forests cover has gone from 30% to 1%.

    “The lack of trees meant that Icelanders were forced to look for as many alternatives as possible for fuel or construction material. Driftwood would be claimed on the beach, and people would write their initials on the wood to say that it was theirs.

    “The Icelandic word for good fortune is hvalreki, which also means beached whale, because whenever Icelanders found a whale on the shore, it was incredible luck for them. They would use every part of the whale: they could eat the meat, utilize the bones as an alternative to wood, and use every other part of the whale to make anything from stools to bowls to bags.

    “Because of the shortage of wood, Icelanders dug their houses into the ground, putting a shed roof on top, which meant that they didn’t have very many windows. They also had to choose between ventilation or warmth, due to the extreme climate. In the winter, animals would be housed in the lower floor and the people in the upper floor, as another means of conserving heat. So, the entire winter was spent in that same room, with the same people, not washing at all, doing all of your knitting or sleeping or activities in the same space.

    “Of course, nowadays we’re able to import materials and use concrete or wood to build structures, but there is still a lot of effort going in to reforesting Iceland. Icelanders have actually been trying out new methods for sustaining forests. In the 1950s, hundreds of native birch trees were planted to try and combat the deforestation, but the majority of these died because of the changing climate. Icelanders have decided that in order to have a sustainable forest, they need trees that can survive in both cold and warmer temperatures.

    “Icelanders have also figured out a better way to grow the trees. They first start the forest by growing lyme grass, which spreads steadily and holds the soil together. They also plant lupine, which helps stabilize the soil as well. If you’ve ever seen spiky purple flowers around the city or in the countryside, those are lupine. These plants have strong roots to prevent the vulnerable, nutrient-filled topsoil from being eroded.

    “After those stabilizing plants go in, they plant the saplings for the appropriate species. Some alternatives to birch that they are trying include Sitka spruce, lodgepole pine, or Russian larch. We need to be careful to ensure these alternate species do not become invasive, or harm the natural wildlife or fragile environment. For example, the native moss we see today took in the neighborhood of seventy years to grow… if this were to be taken over or harmed by a foreign tree species, Icelanders may never see that moss again.

    “This new, innovative method of using other plants to help protect the trees is helping Iceland regain its forests. In fact, the percentage of land covered with trees is now up from 1% to 2%.

    “Alright, we should be about forty-five minutes away from the black sand beach, now. You can watch out the window, or try to take a nap, but, uh… yeah! I’ll leave you to it for now…”

    The mic clicked off. Kyle spent the next couple of minutes writing down the last of the information, and then he closed the notebook. Ooh, boy, now I’m getting carsick… He rested his head against the window, watching the landscape go by, and put one hand into his pocket to hold the crystal. After a few minutes, his eyes began to droop, and he slowly fell asleep.

    Kyle was pulled from his sleep by the sound of Ms. Neumann’s voice on the speakers: “Alright! We’ve arrived at the black sand beach.”

    Sitting up, Kyle peered over the top of the seat in front of him. Ms. Neumann continued, “When we get out of the bus, you’re going to make a group of four, with people that you haven’t worked with before, at least on this field trip. You’re going to come to me to get it approved, and then you are to stay with that group of people at all times. If I see you alone and / or separated from your group, you’re going to owe me a hundred pushups when we get back! Do I make myself clear?”

    There were several Yes’s and nods from the students, and Ms. Neumann nodded with satisfaction. She handed the mic to Yorick, who began talking: “A couple of things that you should know before you’re free to go. So, you’ll see these large pillars of stone and basalt out in the ocean: in Icelandic legend, those are actually trolls. To be more specific, they’re called night trolls, and the reason that they’re called this is because when they’re touched by sunlight, they turn to stone.”

    Kyle glanced out the window, up at the sky. It was a heavy overcast, with a light sprinkle, and the sun nowhere to be found. I wonder if the trolls would be bothered on a day like this…

    “The story goes that the trolls were carrying a giant three-masted ship up to shore, but they were taking too long, and they got caught in the sun. So, when you see the rocks up there, keep in mind that they are actually frozen trolls.”

    A few chuckles when around the bus.

    “The second thing that you need to know is: stay away from the water. There are these great big sneaker waves that will come out of nowhere and carry people out into the ocean. Every year people get sucked out and drown. So, always stay at least one bus length away from the ocean. Got it?” All of the students agreed, including Kyle.

    “Alright!” Ms. Neumann said. “Let’s go explore!”

    Kyle’s group consisted of himself, a grade 9 BETA classmate named Nica, a grade 11 BETA student named Phineas, and a Grade 9 Science Enriched student named Lola. After getting the group approved by Ms. Neumann, they made their way down to the beach, where Kyle did a quick scan of the area. Coal-black pebbles and sand rippled along the shore, with waves lapping the bottom and a mountain at the top. A huge cave sat in the bottom of the mountainside, and beside it, short columns of basalt made up the wall. Several dozen meters out in the ocean, Kyle could see the great rocky pillars that Yorick had described. The faint smell of salt stirred from the sea.  

    “Alright, where do you want to go?” Kyle asked his group.

    “Let’s just head over to the cave, for now,” Nica replied. “Because that seems to be where everyone else was going.”

    “Alright,” Kyle agreed.

    The other two members assented, so they headed in that direction. The cave was at least ten meters in height and four or five meters deep, and was carved into the blackish-grey basalt and rock. On the top of the mountain, they could see yellowish moss growing everywhere, and to the right of the cave, the columns of rock were stacked in an almost staircase fashion, which offered plenty of climbing opportunities. The student groups that had gone ahead of Kyle were already ascending the columns.

    When they reached the cave, Kyle watched as people made their way up the columns. His group melted together with all of the other students and groups, but he made sure to keep an eye on where his groupmates were, in case a teacher tested him.

    Glancing down across the beach, he saw Ms. Neumann, Mr. Murray, Yorick, and Sean all in a group, making their way across the sand. Sean saw him looking and waved him over.

    As Kyle approached, he heard Ms. Neumann say, “We were hoping that you could tell us what kind of stone it was? Kyle said that he thought it might be a sapphire…”

    Oh yeah!! I almost forgot about my gem! Kyle’s hand reached into his pocket, reassuring him that it was still there.

    “Yeah, I could try…” Yorick replied to Ms. Neumann. The two of them were facing away from Kyle. “I mean, I’m not really that familiar with gemstones, but I could take a look.”

    “Well, here he is now,” Sean said, pointing to Kyle, and they turned to face him.

    “Oh, hey Kyle!” Ms. Neumann said. “We were just talking about your stone!”

    “Can we see it?” Mr. Murray requested.

    “Sure!” Kyle pulled out the gemstone, handing it to Mr. Murray. Immediately, it caught the faint light, casting an enchanting bluish-white glow again.

    “Wow…” Mr. Murray held it up to his face, turning it over. “You found this? In the ground?”

    “Yeah! I just saw a sparkle and I was curious!” Kyle replied. He glanced at Yorick, who was staring at the stone with a confused and… sort of worried look.

    Ms. Neumann noticed his face, too. “Do you know what it is, Yorick?”

    “That’s… not possible.”

    Sean cocked his head to the side. “What’s not?”

    “The gem…” Yorick rubbed his eyes, as if not believing what they were showing him. “It looks exactly like the description…”

    “What are you talking about?” Kyle asked.

    “There was a man I knew who claimed that he was kidnapped by elves,” Yorick explained, still entranced. “He told me that the elves had described a beautiful white gem, glimmering and sparkling in dim light, that glowed a white-blue colour.”

    Mr. Murray handed the stone back to Kyle, an intrigued look on his face as he listened to the story.

    “The elves had told him that if such a stone was ever seen, to destroy it as quickly as possible.”

    “Destroy it? Why?” Ms. Neumann asked.  

    “Because—” Yorick was cut off as an enormous rumble spread across the beach, silencing all conversation. It sounded like an earthquake, and the ground began to vibrate, dropping loose stones from the mountain.

    “Because it would un-petrify any night-trolls turned to stone…” Yorick finished in horror.

    Kyle suddenly realized the stone in his hand was glowing. He stepped back, instinctively dropping it, and a brilliant white beam blazed out of the gemstone, searing across the ocean and crashing into one of the giant rock structures out at sea. Another enormous boom shook the ground, and Kyle struggled to stay on his feet.

    A second beam scorched the air and slammed into another rock structure, followed by a third. Big chunks of stone were beginning to dislodge from the three pillars, falling into the now-churning water. Thunder crackled above, and rain began pouring down as the pillars broke apart, spraying boulders into the ocean below and revealing giant, menacing eyes.

    One by one, the once-rocky structures exploded in a shower of stones, and three enormous, humanoid forms now stood in their place. The trolls all had grey, bumpy skin, with scraps of leather hanging from their waists and large, flat ears. Each of them had long, unkept nails and giant, messy teeth, with two larger, prominent fangs coming up from their bottom jaw. They held giant stone clubs, but the most unnerving thing about them was their eyes: large and yellow, with slitted pupils and murderous intent.

    Everyone on the beach stood stock-still, stunned to silence. No one talked, no one moved, no one breathed. Then, one of the trolls roared—a guttural, animalistic, deafening roar—and charged towards the beach, stirring up huge waves as it crashed towards the shore. The two behind it followed suit, roaring and swinging their clubs as they rushed through the water. The sudden attack snapped everyone out of their trance, and then the chaos started.

    Everyone on the beach began screaming and running towards the bus. Kyle was terrified out of his mind, and pure instinct seized him, forcing him to sprint up the beach. Turning, he saw Mr. Murray grab the gem and bolt up the shore after him, along with all of the other adults. “Go, Go! GO! GO!” Mr. Murray screamed, forcing the gem into Kyle’s hands.

    “WHAT!?!? WHY ME?!?!

    “YOU CAN RUN FASTER!!!” Mr. Murray yelled. “NOW GET THE #*!$ OUT OF HERE!!”

    Turning, Kyle raced towards the bus. I need to get out of here right now this is absolutely terrible how could this happen this is impossible this is all my fault I need to get out of here right now this absolutely terrible how could…

    He was so caught up in his own thoughts that he didn’t even realize the bus wasn’t there. No… NO… They had left already, concerned for their own lives.

    Kyle glanced back down at the beach. The trolls had been un-frozen a decent distance from the shore, and with the water slowing them down, they were only now almost at the shore. Kyle took deep breaths, trying to calm himself. It’s no big deal… they’re just… grey-skinned people… twenty meters tall… with clubs…

    The other four adults caught up to him. “They left without us!” Kyle shouted in panic. “We were the farthest down and now they’ve left us!!”

    Ms. Neumann was letting out of string of curse words in between her frantic breaths. “Deep breaths,” Sean was saying. “Deep breaths, Ms. Neumann.”

    “What the hell do we do?!” Mr. Murray shouted.

    “It’s lunarium,” Yorick replied, his eyes glazed over with fear. “It harnesses the moon’s energy to un-petrif—”

    “OH $@%#!” Mr. Murray sprinted away, and as Kyle glanced over his shoulder, he found that the trolls had made it to shore. He let out his own colourful language and charged after Mr. Murray, the others in tow.

    They raced through the rain, up across the moss-covered landscape. Kyle glanced behind them, and saw the three trolls steadily gaining. “HERE THEY COME!!” he shouted.

    “We can’t outrun them!!” Sean yelled.

    All of a sudden, the trolls were on top of them, surrounding the five. The group had run into a particularly large boulder, which blocked off their escape from one direction; the trolls blocked the other three. The middle troll, who looked to be the leader, stared down at the small group, gripping its club. They all stared at each other for several long moments, but time seemed to slow for Kyle. I’m gonna die…

    “Well, well, well…” the troll spoke, startling Kyle. It can speak?? It had a gravely, horrifying voice, like stone grinding on stone. “If it isn’t the troll-wakers.”

    After a few seconds of silence, Mr. Murray cleared his throat. “Y-y-yes! W-we have rescued you f-from your stone pr-pr-pr-prison!” He took a deep breath.

    The trolls exchanged amused glances. “So, you purposely saved us from our… pr-pr-pr-prison?” the middle one mocked. Mr. Murray looked around at everyone else, but they were dead silent.

    “Enough!” the troll on the left said. It had a much deeper voice. “Can we just club ‘em and eat ‘em?”

    “Yeah! I no eaten in three thousand years!” the one on the right said. Its voice was more high-pitched and screechy.

    “Two thousand, Pirrandi,” the left troll said.

    “No!” the right troll—apparently Pirrandi—protested. He held up three fingers, gesturing to them one at a time. “119, 1219, 2219… wait, I lost count…”

    “What year it be?” the left troll asked. Yorick answered, “Uh… t-t-two thousand and nineteen?”

    “See?” the left troll said. “119, 919, 2019!”

    “That… doesn’t make sense,” Ms. Neumann said. “That’s not two thousand years. That’s not even linear…”

    “Me told you!!” Pirrandi hollered. “Three thousand! Who stupid now, Heimskur??”

    “N-no…” Ms. Neumann interjected. “Three thousand is even farther from the truth.”

    “What?” Pirrandi screeched. “That make no sense!”

    “Trust me, I’m a math teacher,” Ms. Neumann assured them. Kyle glanced up at the middle troll, who had his face in his hands.

    “You are??” Heimskur asked. “Then, settle a bet for us: Pirrandi says three group of four sheeps is eleven; I say it’s a thousand and—”

    “ENOUGH!!” the middle troll roared. “I’m DONE with this talking!” He hefted his club in his hands, and said, “Who has the lunarium stone?”

    All of them stayed silent. Yorick glanced at Kyle, but the trolls didn’t seem to notice. They seem kind of dumb…

    “Oh, we’re going to play that game, huh?” the middle troll said.

    “Oh, yeah!” Pirrandi chuckled. “Not that game! Me hate that game!”

    Kyle glanced at Sean, who was watching with a frightened look on his face.

    “Uh, Leiðtogi?” Pirrandi asked.


    “What that game, again?”

    “Shut up and club ‘em.”

    Pirrandi and Heimskur lifted both of their clubs at the same time, but before they could bring them down, Kyle shouted, “WAIT!”

    They hesitated for a moment, and the middle one—Leiðtogi—said, “What?”

    Kyle tried to ignore the shaking in his limbs. “Y-you shouldn’t k-k-k-kill us!”

    Leiðtogi chuckled. “Oh yeah? Well then, go ahead. Persuade me.”

    Come on. They’re really dumb. You can do this.

    We learned this before we left. How to persuade. Rhetoric.

    The three concepts: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

    First—Ethos: establish credibility.

    “This here, is Yorick,” Kyle practically yelled as he gestured to the tour guide, who had a bewildered look on his face. “Yorick has studied Iceland and its culture for the past twenty years. He’s the one who knew it was lunarium.”

    The trolls looked at each other. Clearly this was unimpressive to them.

    “He… is well-versed in all things Iceland related. Isn’t that right, Yorick?” Kyle looked to Yorick, who seemed to catch on.

    “Y…yes! I know that you three are night trolls, who got caught in the sun as you carried a boat up to the shore.”

    At this, the trolls stirred in surprise. “You know about that?” Pirrandi asked.

    “It’s clearly a lucky guess,” Leiðtogi said.

    “What kind of boat was it, Yorick?” Kyle pried.

    Yorick replied without hesitation, “A three-masted boat.”

    Pirrandi and Heimskur were now looking at Leiðtogi, questioning how this human knew about their ship.

    Ethos… check.

    Second—Logos: logic.

    “Anyway,” Kyle continued. “Yorick said that there’s only one lunarium stone in the entirety of Iceland. And we did have it. But while you were chasing us, we hid it.” Kyle could feel the weight of the stone in his pocket, but he hoped the trolls fell for the lie.

    “No problem…” Leiðtogi said slowly. “We… know where to get more!”

    “Really?” Kyle pried. “Because Yorick has been all over Iceland, and he knows that there’s only one.”

    Before Leiðtogi could protest, Kyle continued, “So killing us would mean that you won’t get your lunarium stone back.”

    Okay… now to hit it home.

    Third—Pathos: emotion.

    “Think about that!” he continued. “Think of all of your night troll cousins who will never get to see the light of da… er, the dark of night! They’ll remain frozen forever in a stone prison, all because you were too hungry to care about getting their key! Their families will never see them, and their lives will never be complete!” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ms. Neumann examining the boulder behind them. She seemed to be pushing on the wall for some reason.

    Looking back at the trolls, he saw that they were looking at each other in panic. Big tears were rolling down Pirrandi’s face. “Aw, man! Now we can’t kill ‘em boss! Think of the families!”

    Kyle looked up at Leiðtogi, who was staring at his feet. “I…” he glanced up at Kyle, but then his eyes rested on something directly behind the boy, and his pupils narrowed. He lashed out with his hand, but Kyle was grabbed by someone behind him and yanked backwards, through a… doorway?

    “NO!!” Leiðtogi roared.

    Kyle was pulled back into the corridor, where he could see a door hanging open. Sean jumped forward, slamming the door shut and closing off the noise of the trolls. “What the heck just happened?” Kyle exclaimed, glancing around. The group was in a small foyer that opened up into a giant circular room. The walls and roof were made from stone, and the floor was covered in wooden planks. Everything had bright green moss on it, and torches were mounted on the wall, blazing some sort of purple fire that lit the entire room in a white glow.

    In the main room, the walls were covered in beautiful, sparkling tapestries, depicting volcanos and ice and flowers and beauty. Tables lined the walls, embroidered with fine silver, and flower pots made of gold were placed throughout the room.

    “Ms. Neumann found a doorway in the boulder!!” Sean explained. “She was able to get it open and get us in!”

    “Yes, she was,” a voice said from behind them. They whirled around to see a tall man standing in the foyer. He was wearing long, regal, opulent robes, made of intricate green embroidery on fine silver fabric. He had long, silver hair, pale skin, and ears that thinned at the tips. The man held his head high, as if he saw everyone else as objectively lower than him.

    “An elf…” Yorick whispered. “They live inside large boulders, in rooms that are magically giant.”

    “That’s quite right,” the elf replied. He had a thin accent, but from what nation Kyle couldn’t tell. “And you’ve only found my house because I decided to lend you a hand.”

    “Why have you chosen to reveal yourself to us?” Yorick asked. It seemed as though he was in a trance.

    “You have something that I would very much like,” the elf replied. “Lunarium.”

    Kyle protectively placed his hands into his pockets, but the elf caught his movements. “Ah, the stone-bearer,” he said. “I wish you no harm; in fact, in exchange for the lunarium, I propose a trade.”

    “What kind of trade?” Sean asked.

    “I shall get rid of the trolls once more, and I will reunite you with the rest of your group.”

    Kyle thought about it for a moment. This is crazy, he thought. This room is way larger than the boulder… there’s purple fire right there… there’s an elf standing next to me… there’s a magic moon-gem in my pocket…

    “So? Stone-bearer?” the elf inquired. “What is your decision?”

    It took a second for Kyle to realize that the elf was talking to him. “Uh… that seems fair…”

    “Hang on,” Ms. Neumann cut in. “How do we know that you won’t use the lunarium to free more trolls?”

    “I shall destroy it right in front of your eyes,” the elf said. “It will be gone for the foreseeable future.”

    Ms. Neumann narrowed her eyes. “Wait, what do you mean, foreseeable?”

    “The lunarium is dangerous,” the elf said in a commanding voice, ignoring the question. “Any petrified trolls that it gets near will become a large, savage animal within seconds. We cannot afford to risk such a threat being unleashed upon Iceland.”

    “I suppose…” Sean replied.

    “Alright,” Mr. Murray replied. “We’ll take your deal.”

    Kyle pulled out the stone and held it out for the elf to take. Instead, however, the tall man snapped, and a bolt of purple lighting flew from his hand to the crystal, filling it with heat and light. Kyle dropped the stone in surprise, and it sat on the ground for a few seconds, steadily growing in brightness, until it finally burst into purple flames, disintegrating into dust within moments.

    “And now, the trolls,” the elf said. He walked to the door and opened it, stepping outside of his boulder. Kyle slowly followed, staying within the doorframe, as the tall man confronted the three trolls. The other adults followed suit.

    “You have no business here, boulder-dweller!” Heiðtogi was yelling. “The humans are rightfully ours, as is the lunarium!”

    “Your troll brethren are an insult to this world,” the elf replied icily. “The lunarium has been taken care of, and you shall not be seeing the likes of it ever again.”

    “NO!!” Leiðtogi leapt forwards, smashing his club down onto the tall man. Kyle gasped at the sudden attack, but a split second before the elf was crushed, cracks shot up the sides of the club and it crumbled into pieces, leaving the tall man untouched.

    Leiðtogi stared at his empty hands, rage on his face. Kyle couldn’t see the other two trolls from the angle of the doorway, but he could imagine that they were probably angry, too. The elf, however, calmly lifted his hands towards the sky, muttering an enchanting incantation. With a sudden rumble of thunder, a bolt of purple lightning blazed from his hands and up into the sky. Leiðtogi looked up, frightened, and then the lightning exploded, sending a shockwave across the sky that blew all of the clouds away, revealing bright azure sky.

    And a blinding sun.

    “NOOOOO!!” all three trolls screamed as they struggled to find a place to hide. They all spun away and began running back towards the ocean, but as Kyle watched, their movements became slower and more sluggish. Their skin turned stonier and darker, and rocks began bulging out from their skin, imprisoning them where they stood. Their hollering died down as their faces were covered, and soon they were back to three tall rocky structures, no different from any other mountain or sea stack.

    Kyle couldn’t stop himself from laughing with relief. They were gone. We lived!! The other adults were breathing sighs of relief, hugging each other and laughing.

    After a few seconds, Kyle looked up to see the elf had disappeared. “If you’re quite done…” a familiar voice said from behind him. All five of them whirled around to find that the elf was back in the room.

    The tall man snapped once again, purple sparks flying from his fingertips, and the back wall of his room began collapsing, folding in on itself to reveal a tunnel that led off into blackness. “Your group awaits.” he said.

    “Thank you so much for all of your help!” Kyle said.

    Sean added, “Yeah, we wouldn’t have made it if you hadn’t shown up!”

    “I am aware,” the elf replied simply. “Now follow the tunnel, and you shall find yourself back with your friends.”

    The five of them made their way past the elf and into the dark abyss. The walls, ceiling, and floor of the tunnel were made of some sort of dark black stone, and there were no light sources, save for the room that the elf was in.

    After a couple minutes, the darkness became heavy, weighing them down. Looking back, Kyle couldn’t see the room they had started from. Did the tunnel turn? He couldn’t remember. Maybe it was slanted down…

    “Hello?” he tried, but there was no reply. Where was everyone? Didn’t he come down with four people? Or was it three? He tried feeling around, but his limbs were feeling heavier than usual.

    Wasn’t his teacher with him? And his dad? That was two… who else came? His thoughts became more and more sluggish, until finally he collapsed, and slipped into unconsciousness.

    Kyle awoke suddenly, sitting up straight. Blinking slowly, he looked around. He was sitting in a bed, with white walls, and… green carpet…

    Beside him, Kelvin was putting away his laptop and getting up from his bed. “C’mon, Kyle!” he said. “We’ve got two minutes to be down in the lobby! We’re going to be late!”

A historical account of April in grade 9

On the second day of the fourth month, of the two thousand and nineteenth year, a band of students traveled across many leagues to a theater. Beyond this vast cavern known as a theater to the uneducated, was a building, a center for learning, study and mastery. These students were placed in seats of fabric and plastic, and prominent members of society were brought up on the stage, and they spoke about many wondrous subjects of the sea, humanity’s flaws and creatures of the planet. They stayed there for about a third of the planet’s full turning, then each person left in different directions, heading to home.

The class under the stairs, under the roof watched twice episodes of The Story of Us, an epic tale of the beginnings of their nation, supported by prominent members of the country. These such tales included fables and stories of our founding fathers, among their ranks the likes of George Vancouver and Montcalm, their very actions, influencing and shaping the country.

Nearly a fortnight later, the class was made aware that one of the students, Kyle Brent, had won first place, in a competition deemed the Science Fair. He will be travelling across the nation to attend a regional Science Fair competition later in the season.