Murfressboro STEAM Bus

Members of the Johnson City School System and the Johnson City Public Schools Foundation traveled to Murfreesboro over the summer to view a similar project.

Foundation looking to provide STEAM Bus for Johnson City Schools

The Johnson City Public Schools Foundation has secured the first step in making their dream a reality, now they’ll just need the help of the community for the rest.

The Foundation’s dream is to provide a refurbished, redesigned and technology-infused school bus known as a STEAM Bus for the Johnson City School System. The STEAM Bus will travel around to the eight elementary schools throughout the school year and allow teachers to present hands-on lessons geared toward the use of STEAM principals that center around science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking.

“It’s unique and I think the kids will think it is a lot of fun to get on the bus and learn,” Johnson City Public Schools Foundation President Amy Stover said. “The important thing is to appeal to all types of kids and help them to see that these are the careers of tomorrow and get them interested in these skills early in life.”

The Foundation has already secured a 2005 school bus as a donation from Johnson City and the Foundation made a pledge of $15,000 from their budget to help start the process for the school bus overhaul. They have also been able to raise close to $16,000 from the community.

However, that money is only expected to get the bus ready, so the Foundation is hoping to receive donations from the community and local businesses to make their $100,000 dream a reality.

“It’s a great opportunity for our community and our businesses to do something that will have a lasting impact on the community,” Stover said. “STEAM is the way of the future, this is where the jobs are going to be and we need to get our kids on-board early.”

Tembra Aldridge, General Manager of the Mall at Johnson City and JCPSF Board member, agreed with Stover and said that the Mall at Johnson City donated money because they want to give back to the community that gives so much to them.

“The Mall at Johnson City strives to give back to the community who shops with us all year long,” Aldridge said. “We enjoy partnering with the Johnson City School System, and have so for many years now. The STEAM Bus is going to be a great hands on and interactive approach to learning for the children in our area. What better way to help our community than to be a part of this great educational resource.”

Currently a team of administrators and teachers are working to fine-tune what the exact curriculum and modules will look like, but Stover said the plan is to model the lesson plans around 3rd and 4th grade math and science curriculum standards so that students will be able to experience a wide variety of meaningful learning experiences using state-of-the-art technology.

“Each STEAM component will allow students to see the same topic, like energy, through the different lenses of the five unique STEAM subject areas,” Stover said.

Johnson City Schools Supervisor of Secondary and Instructional Technology Dr. David Timbs said that he was thrilled when he heard about the Foundation’s idea.

“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. “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.”

During the summer months, the Foundation hopes that the school bus will be taken around to different areas, similar to the school system’s Book-Worm Mobile, and used to provide educational opportunities to students who otherwise may not have them.

With the STEAM Bus dream slowly creeping toward a reality, Timbs said he is looking forward to the day when Johnson City students will have this new and unique way to learn the skills that are required today.

“What started as a dream to bring a mobile, hands-on STEAM classroom to our elementary schools has morphed into the latest way we can partner with our city's businesses and industries to provide experiences that reflect those most similar to what today's employees in high tech environments experience,” Timbs said. “Early career exploration and igniting interest in STEM 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.”

For more information about the STEAM Bus you can visit the Foundation webpage at JCSchools.org/Foundation. There, you will also find a Power Point presentation about the STEAM Bus project. The Foundation will use a new fundraiser to raise money for the STEAM Bus with a “Spell-a-bration” Adult Spelling Bee on April 12. The event will be held inside Grand Topper Hall at Science Hill High School. More on that event will be announced in the near future.