Scientific school bus makes its rounds about Columbia
COLUMBIA - Students board and unload school buses routinely, but there is nothing typical about the lastest school bus addition to the Columbia Public School District.
There may not be a real life version of Ms. Frizzle's magic school bus but CPS' practical arts coordinator Craig Adams has developed something pretty close, and it's called a STEAM bus.
STEAM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Columbia Public Schools are trying to further implement these key subjects into their curriculum in an effort to promote the development of creativity and problem solving skills sets. The bus is the latest tool assisting in that effort, serving as a mobile science lab allowing students to conduct hands-on experiments with the latest technology.
Adams' vision began with a yellow school bus donation from Student Transportation of America. Adams and some friends gutted the bus, installed counters and flooring, ran electrical, purchased academic technology, and after four months of manual labor, created what educational tech advocates call a "makerspace."
"None of this is coming out of Columbia Public School pockets," Adams said. "There have been a lot of in-kind donations."
Adams admitted that the bus is a massive collaborative effort from neighbors to consignment shops to graphic designers. Adams said the combined value of items donated as well as the gifted labor have reached several thousands of dollars.
The completed bus is now beginning to make stops to schools across the district, essentially bringing science fieldtrips to campuses.
Erika Finch is a media specialist at Alpha Hart Elementary and also helps to coordinate a new after school STEAM club. She said she was very pleased the STEAM bus found its way around to her school.
"As a kid myself I always liked math. I was good at math, but I didn't know it was something I could do as a career," Finch said. "I kind of want to give our kids the opportunity to experience some of this stuff, especially our girls."
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce but make up less than 39 percent of any sector of engineering or science.
Several participating female students said they would be interested in pursuing a STEAM-related career. Winter Whipple-Murrell is a fifth grader at Alpha Hart and already hopes to be a contributing mind to the workforce.
"There's not many people in those jobs, but there are tons and tons of those jobs," Murrell said. "What if somebody needs something but it doesn't exist yet? We need someone to do that."