STEM Bus an integral tool for engaging youngsters
The brand-new STEM Bus in Fayette County Public Schools offers a dynamic and interactive mobile learning space to engage students in science, technology, engineering, and math. Third-graders are the initial focus as the bus rolls out this semester, with the goal of eventually visiting every elementary school.
“When students step aboard the STEM Bus, they will be star-struck by the futuristic interior,” said Ashley Faulkner, the district’s STEM learning coach. Her role in this new position is to provide elementary students with 21st-century learning opportunities that ignite their curiosity. She also supports and coaches classroom teachers to see their various subjects through the STEM lens. “STEM is not just a fancy acronym that is meant to be taught independently from all other disciplines,” Faulkner said. “It is a mindset – a way to see the world and solve the problems we may face in any area.”
The STEM Bus will be an integral resource as students use technology tools, develop critical-thinking skills, and solve hands-on problems through free field trips right in their school parking lot. Bus highlights include constellation lighting on the ceiling, magnetic dry-erase stations, up-to-date technology like iPads and Chromebooks, robots, virtual reality headsets, and digital microscopes. The content and activities are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, Computer Science Standards, and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Students. “In every module, there are components that allow students to think critically, collaborate, communicate, and create,” Faulkner noted.
Staff in the district’s Office of Instructional Technology used those very skills in partnering with the Kloiber Foundation and Nomi Design to transform the 40-foot school bus. School board members and FCPS employees got a sneak peek in mid-January outside Norsworthy Auditorium. Check out more details at www.fcps.net/stembus.
Amy Johns, associate director for Instructional Technology, said the concept started as a dream almost three years ago. The district’s Transportation Department offered up a surplus bus for the project, Johns’ office secured a $124,000 grant from the Kloiber Foundation, and the renovations started in spring 2018. “Just like the project could not have happened without the Kloiber Foundation’s support, it would have never become a reality without the gifted work of many people at Nomi Design,” she said.
The district’s goal is for the STEM Bus to reinforce what students are learning in their classrooms and to spark excitement about potential career paths. “We believe that if students get the opportunity to do hands-on activities using STEM concepts, it will be easier for them to see themselves as future scientists, programmers, engineers, and more,” Johns said.