PRATTVILLE — Partridge Family, eat your hearts out.
Autauga County Schools have two recycled, brightly painted school buses hitting the roads. And it’s not just the outside that gets the artwork; inside is where the cool stuff really is. The walls and ceilings of the buses sport everything from a copy of the periodic table to the theater masks of comedy and tragedy.
The buses feature elements of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Math) and are the brainchild of Prattville Junior High Principal Janice Stockman. Her idea was simple: Make the buses into rolling classrooms that visit the schools in the system. A bring-the-field-trip-to-the-schools kind of thing.
“It’s been amazing, it’s been beyond anything I could have ever imagined,” Stockman said.
The vast majority of the work was done by school district workers. At the end of last school year, students at the technology center stripped out the seats, cleaned up the buses and helped reworked the inside experience. Welding students designed and built two “back porches” on the buses to serve as ramps for handicapped access.
Fast forward to this school year and Chuck Hawkins, who teaches computer science at the junior high, ran all the necessary lines and plugs for technology to be used in the buses. Mattie Hughes painted the inside of the STEM bus and sisters Presley and Ryder Langley of Yellow Room Designs handled the task for the STREAM bus.
“We kept it all in the family,” Stockman said. “Mattie and the Langley girls are all graduates of Autauga County schools. Everywhere I turned people were ready to work and support the idea.”
The buses have been parked at the junior high of late. They will hit the road to the other campuses in January.
The buses are mostly self contained with cabinets full of art supplies, engineering tools, gadgets and other necessities. They have heat and A/C. Long wooden desks, with charging stations and electrical outlets galore, run the perimeter of the buses facing outward. Roll-out awnings expand the classroom space.
All the buses have to do is pull up, plug into a power source, and they are open for business.
The rides are a hit with eighth graders Emily Long and Roderick Pratt.
Emily has worked in the STEM bus.
“I honestly really do like this bus,” she said. “Kids don’t just have to stay in the classroom. They can come out and do their normal school work and school projects in a bus.”
Roderick is a fan of the engineering side.
“They look very cool,” he said of the buses. “Besides all the other stuff, I like the art that they did on top of the roofs, and stuff on the sides. I like to do engineering, so just do the stuff in here and build stuff is very cool to me.”
Emily’s and Roderick’s impressions are just what Stockman wants to hear.
“You get the students out of the classroom and excited to learn,” she said. “I love that.”
So after the buses start making their rounds, can there be more in the future?
“A history bus maybe, with period costumes?” Stockman said with a laugh. “I don’t know, let us get over working on these buses, and we’ll see.”
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Marty Roney at [email protected].