The STEAM Bus is the district’s newest learning resource for teachers and students in grades PreK-12. This makerspace on wheels will provide hands-on learning activities across a variety of STEAM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. The bus will also host professional development opportunities so teachers will have cutting edge resources and the skills needed to provide an enhanced educational experience for their students.
The STEAM Bus all started as a dream in the fall of 2017. The idea began when administrators started discussing how to get a makerspace on each Van ISD campus. A makerspace is a collaborative workspace inside a school for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech and no tech tools. The concept behind makerspace is more of a creative, problem-solving mindset and acquiring 21st-century skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). For our makerspace, we decided it was also important to incorporate an A for art; hence the name STEAM instead of STEM.
The problem we encountered during initial discussions was where to put these makerspaces since most campuses did not have the extra space needed to dedicate an entire room for that purpose. The solution? An old school bus that would be gutted, stripped down and transformed into a mobile learning lab and travel from campus to campus.
The administrative team took the idea to Van High School iTeam students to get their thoughts and input. Kids said they wanted virtual reality, augmented reality, green screen capabilities, and coding opportunities. They then gave ideas on what the design and color scheme should look like. A group of students and teachers even got to go visit the Boy Scouts of America’s Mobile Makerspace in Austin, Keller ISD’s mobile trailer, and Winona ISD’s mobile reading lab to get even more ideas of what they liked and wanted to see incorporated.
Countless hours along with numerous challenges and problem-solving opportunities went into making the STEAM Bus a reality through months of in-house work by students, teachers, administrators, the technology and maintenance departments, and one community volunteer. The vision came to life as a 45-foot, one of a kind classroom on wheels that will travel from campus to campus as well as outside the district to provide one of a kind learning experiences for prekindergarten through 12th grade students. The bus is equipped to hold 20 students inside and has additional teaching space on the outside for 10 more students. The STEAM Bus will feature a menu of items for teachers to select from that connect various cross-curricular content and concepts for all ages. Lessons experienced on the bus can then be extended into the classroom for further learning opportunities.
The STEAM Bus went for a test drive today over to J.E. Rhodes Elementary to visit our students at No Excuses Day Camp so they could test it out for us. It was a HUGE hit! Students enjoyed a variety of activities centered around the book, “Pete the Cat Goes Camping.” Students rotated through some low tech stations set up outside the bus and used their reading skills to follow a sequence of directions to make S’mores, pitch tents, and make a craft. Inside the bus, they experienced some of the high tech capabilities with the Merge Cube and coding with Ozobots.
We can’t wait to see the many ways students and teachers will utilize this exciting new learning tool in the upcoming school year!
See the transformation here:
Look for the STEAM Bus to roll out to a campus near you beginning fall 2019!