Five teenagers find themselves transferred to an experimental science class that’s considerably more hands-on than they expect.
Though they have no special interest in science to start, Malik, Jules, Christopher, Tracey, and Ilyana quickly discover one when they learn that their classroom is a secret, high-tech lab beneath their Southern California school. Better yet, following an introduction to the meaning of STEM, their enthusiastic new teacher leads them out first to help the school custodian deal with a burst pipe and then, on an impromptu field trip, to join a group of specialists who have gathered to find ways of diverting rising floodwaters nearby. These missions involve discussions of principles and techniques in a range of scientific and technological fields, plus the exercise of cooperative problem-solving—particularly when a burst temporary dam traps the students in a flooded house. Rosenberg’s not at his best with character descriptions (Ilyana is “a petite thing,” and Christopher’s a “skinny Asian boy”), but he makes a conscientious, commendable effort to diversify both the teen cast and the supporting adults. Along with undisguised infodumps throughout, he further boosts the instructional agenda with appended sets of review and discussion questions plus amplified descriptions of the episode’s highlighted STEM specialties. Scattered illustrations don’t add much to the package.
The plot’s on a mission, though there’s sufficient humor and drama to keep it wheeling along. (bibliography) (Fiction/nonfiction hybrid. 11-13)