The foundation aims to provide a refurbished, technology-infused school bus to travel around to each elementary school and give students a chance to engage in hands-on lessons that center around science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, according to foundation President Amy Stover.
“Every child will have access to it. All kids love hands-on learning, but a lot of times they aren’t given that opportunity,” Stover said. “With this, the whole class would get together and use their problem-solving skills, critical-thinking skills and teamwork skills.”
The Foundation has already secured $31,000 to fund the $100,000 project that Stover said aims to be put in motion this summer. Before using the bus to bring hands-on lessons to elementary students throughout the system, she said she hopes to see the bus travel around the community to provide summer activities.
So far, the Foundation has pledged $15,000, while the community and businesses such as the Johnson City Mall have helped by providing $16,000. Stover said businesses that help fund the project will be able to incorporate lessons pertaining to their industries into the rotating modules, which will change periodically.
Each lesson, according to Stover, will be looked at “through a different lens.”
“If the bus is at a school for three weeks, they could bring the students on different days so they could do all of the lessons on the subject. There would be multiple ways for them to explore each module,” she said.
“If we got (area electricity provider) BrightRidge on board, it would be great if we could do something on energy. We would be able to design modules that deal with the science standards of energy and the math standards of energy.”
Though Stover said the project is still in its conceptual stage, she and David Timbs, supervisor of secondary and instructional technology, were inspired by the school district’s Bookmobile, which travels to each school to provide books to students free of charge.
“The proposed STEAM bus represents a creative, innovative approach by the Johnson City Public Schools Foundation to not only increase the availability of hands-on science and technology modules for our students in grades 3-4 to experience, but also an incredible early push into career exploration for these students,” Timbs said in a press release.
“Our teachers will design rotating modules to be placed on the bus with an eye toward Tennessee's new science standards as well as an eye toward the evolving needs of our region's employees that demand creative thinkers, technologically-savvy innovators, and collaborative, team players.”
It’s never too early to start thinking about career options, according to Timbs.
“Early career exploration and igniting interest in STEAM areas will impact our students in ways that will drive their excitement about learning and their own desire to say, ‘Wow! What can I accomplish in my own future career?’ It's a unique school-business-community partnership that can be replicated in other communities across the state and the nation,” Timbs said in a press release.
For more information about the STEAM Bus, visit www.jcschools.org/foundation, where visitors can view a presentation about the project and learn about future fundraising events.