Surplus school bus becomes a mobile science station

Third-graders at Lexington’s Harrison Elementary on Tuesday climbed onto a school transformed with robots and digital microscopes, constellation lighting on the ceiling, magnetic dry-erase stations, iPads and Chromebooks, and virtual reality headsets.

District officials expect that the new, brightly painted STEM Bus where students learn , technology, engineering and math will eventually travel to all the elementary schools in the district.

It was a hit at Harrison.

Third-grader Gracie Rushford said she used a microscope to determine the difference between plants and animals.

“I don’t think there could be a better hands-on experience than this,” said Sarah Whitlock, a third grade teacher. “It allows them to touch things. It allows them to figure things out for themselves.”

Each learning on the 40-foot bus has a technology component.

Students at one station focused on engineering and machines, students at another observed and identified fossils through a microscope and at another spot, students using virtual reality headsets took a self-guided tour of what a paleontologist does every day.

At the same time, another group of kids were programming a robot to travel across the United States to learn about fossils, said Ashley Faulkner, the district STEM learning coach.

Amy Johns, associate director for Instructional Technology, said that Fayette County Public Schools’ Transportation Department provided a surplus bus, that Johns’ office received a $124,000 grant from the Kloiber Foundation, a non-profit in Lexington, and a company called Nomi Design in Lexington worked on the transformation.

District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said in addition to receiving the grant, the school district paid about $2,000 for the initial design services and about $14,000 for the lift on the back to make it accessible to all students.

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