This is your bus.
After a recent bus trip to Hazeldale, we received this crayon drawing of the bus. It was accompanied by a short story about a FutureBus visit. I was excited to see another cool drawing from a thoughtful kid, like many sent to us over the years. For some reason, this one brought me right back to the cool Fall morning four days prior.
I remembered having to hop the curb and drive through a huge iron gate to park the bus. I stumbled in the wet flowerbeds trying to connect a 100 foot extension cord to the building, only to come up just short. Another slog out through the rain to grab another cord. People might think that driving the FutureBus is all glory and accolades, but they are missing out on some of the really good stuff – like when that second trip in the dark ends with your foot ankle deep in a mud puddle and you didn’t bring a second pair of shoes. Robots were plugged in, the coffee started heating up, and within a half hour the bus was ready for action.
Thirty minutes later, young students in puffy coats emerged through heavy metal doors that they could barely push open. They were stoked to see the bus and we were stoked to see them.
Some of them drove Sphero robots at high speed off of jumps and raged off road, over wet cement, until they finally got stuck in barkdust after bouncing off of the tires of the bus. Other kids went inside the bus, perched on cushioned seats, recorded their voices and took pictures. They were learning to program in Scratch to tell stories. After programming for a bit, these students made their way to the back of the bus where they were mesmerized by the light from the magic sandbox. The laughter and talking that accompanied their storytelling was replaced by the low hum of the technology and the skimming of small hands on sand. They reached into the landscape and made virtual water flow down steep hills and canyons. Sometimes engagement is loud, often it is nearly silent.
All too soon our time was up, we said goodbye and watched from the bus steps as the kids returned to their classrooms, leaving us standing quietly in the rain. Another opportunity to step into ankle deep puddles while coiling up cords in the rain. After packing up the robots and securing the sandbox, I drove off into the dark morning.
Another wet, awesome, FutureBus visit in the books. A few days later, when we received the drawing I mentioned before, it came with a note from the teacher. She said that this student had been a very reluctant writer, and that this was, in fact, the very first time this student ever wrote a story. Suddenly the clear message, the beginning, middle, end, and the thoughtful description of the sand took on new meaning. This wasn’t just another piece of writing, this was the very first story that this child had ever written.
In education we are often focused on the word “differentiation”. It describes how we adjust our teaching to meet the individual needs of our students. Some students can create and write a story when they are asked. Others may need a suggestion or a sentence frame to get started. This student needed a 28,000 pound bus full of robots and a magic sandbox. And someone to get up early, drive through the rain, and bring it to them.
That’s what we do. And this kid is why we do it.
What does it take to inspire one imagination? To help a child overcome challenges and create?
To write their first story?
It takes everything.
To our students, we want you to know: YOU are worth everything.
This is your bus. We will see you soon.