Take A Ride On The STEAM Bus

In the late 1960s, the magic bus took rock impresario Pete Townsend to see his baby each day. In the 1990s, the magic bus took you on a “wilder ride” through a series of science-based adventures to exotic locations such as inside Ralphie’s sore throat with Ms. Frizzle.

For Columbia elementary students, the magic bus is a colorful, mobile “makerspace” where they can build anything from a flashlight to a tickle machine.

Columbia Public Schools’ new STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) bus features work stations and all the tools students need to develop their engineering and problem-solving skills.

The STEAM bus is the brain child of Craig Adams’, CPS’ practical arts coordinator, brain child, whose goal is to get students more interested and invested in their own education.

“We’re trying to get kids, No. 1, engaged in their own education and thinking about where they want to go,” Adams said. “We’re giving them the opportunity to explore with things they wouldn’t typically have in class.”

The new mobile makerspace ties in nicely with Project Lead the Way, a STEM curriculum — science, technology, engineering and math — the district has been implementing in the elementary schools. In gateway to technology classes in the middle schools, students work on everything from coding and drawing 3D images to robotics. With engineering classes at the high schools and for-credit courses with technical colleges, Adams said the district is making a united effort to guide interested students to careers in technology.

“They now have that pathway. We’re on the cusp of making huge strides with getting kids in those tech fields,” he said. “This is the start … the big end of the funnel.”

Although many of the STEAM bus projects lend themselves naturally to the fields of science and technology, Adams noted “they don’t all have to be engineers.”

He said the STEAM bus activities are designed around helping students identify which of six career paths — arts and communication, business, agriculture and natural resources, human services, health sciences and science, technology and math — they have the most affinity for.

“Basically education is a tool to get me where I want to go. If I know what I’m doing in school connects me to where I want to be, I’m going to work harder,” Adams said. “It’s all about connecting kids to their own education and making them realize it’s their education.”.