Learning Environments

Photos: Classrooms That Really Move

These traveling art studios, science labs, and greenhouses are reducing barriers to access by meeting students where they are.
June 23, 2017

Art Space

An exterior shot of a tie-dye-painted bus parked on the street
© Vickie Bird
This transit bus turned art studio is the brainchild of park supervisor Dale Weigandt—a response to budget cuts to arts education at his daughter’s school in the 1980s. He waited 30 years to realize his dream.

 

A father and daughter are making art on a bus with paper and markers.
© Jacob Pace
Since 2015, the bus has been visiting rural districts, low-income housing areas, and parks in and around Eugene, Oregon, to give kids access to art.

 

A young girl is staring excitedly at a paper mask she made on an art bus.
© Jacob Pace
Art has the power to inspire kids, which is why Artie, as the bus is known, visits 10 parks a week in summer.

 

 

A group of kids and adults are sitting in a bus, holding Halloween masks they created.
© Jacob Pace
Staff artists provide free lessons to kids who would not otherwise have access to art.

STEM Lab

An exterior shot of a large black RV that says Geekbus on the side
© Mark Barnett
The Geekbus is a mobile science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) lab in San Antonio, Texas, that gives underserved K–12 students the opportunity to learn about robotics, renewable energy, and more.

 

Students are sitting on a bench in a carpeted bus listening to two adults.
© Mark Barnett
The 40-foot RV is equipped with tools like wind turbine kits and tiny programmable computers that can be used in building robots.

STEM Lab

The exterior of a semi-truck with a picture of a boy in a lab coat wearing protective glasses and gloves.
© Ned Dishman
Since 2003, the MdBioLab has served over 150,000 high school students, traveling to every district across Maryland.

 

Students are working inside of a semi-truck that was converted into a science lab.
© Ned Dishman
MdBioLab gives students all over Maryland a chance to do experiments like testing shark DNA to determine if it came from an illegally harvested great white shark.

STEM Lab

The exterior of a double-expandable trailer that says, "Mobile exploration lab for science and technology education."
© Ned Dishman
MdBioLab’s sibling, the MXLab is a 53-foot, double-expandable trailer that opens up to a 1,000-square-foot lab with curricula in biology, chemistry, environmental science, and data-set modeling.

 

A group of students are working in a science lab within a double-expandable trailer.
© Jennifer Colvin
In this high-tech lab, students can perform tests like gel electrophoresis, analyzing hemoglobin samples to determine whether a patient has sickle cell disease.

 Greenhouse

Students line up beside a blue bus with a glass roof.
© Greg Owens
In Bozeman, Montana, a mobile greenhouse teaches elementary students about photosynthesis, gardening, and healthy eating.

 

The inside of a bus turned into a greenhouse with bus seats removed and plant beds on both sides.
© Dacotah Stordahl
The bus seat frames were transformed into plant tables, and herbs and vegetables were planted throughout.

 

A group of kids and teenagers are standing inside of a bus without seats, filled with plants, and a glass roof.
© Greg Owens
The bus visits elementary schools in Bozeman that can’t afford gardens. Local high school students designed the lessons, connecting them to the district’s science curriculum.

 Recording Studio

An exterior side shot of a bus. The stop sign says, "In Session," instead of "Stop."
© Carolina Studios
The nonprofit Carolina Studios built this mobile music studio, which serves students in middle and high school in Charleston, South Carolina. It also has after-school and summer programs.

 

Teens and adults are sitting in a bus editing music on computers.
© Carolina Studios
The mobile recording studio provides at-risk youths with a safe space to explore music while learning the technical skills needed to produce it.

 

A man and a teenage boy are recording themselves playing guitar inside of a bus.
© Carolina Studios
Mark Bryan, chairman of Carolina Studios’s board and lead guitarist of Hootie and the Blowfish, has been known to hop into the recording booth for a lesson.

 Makerspace

A side exterior shot of a school bus. The majority of the bus is painted blue with colorful piping and white clouds.
© Craig Adams
Columbia Public Schools in Missouri has a mobile makerspace that travels to the district’s elementary and middle schools, giving students the opportunity to code robots and experiment with sound waves.

 

Elementary-aged students in lab coats are making things with iPads and Legos inside of a bus converted into a work station.
© Craig Adams
The district had installed makerspaces in some schools, but administrators realized that to reach every student a mobile space was needed.

 

Young kids are making things with electronic building blocks at two pop-up tables beside a bus.
© Craig Adams
The bus gives students a chance to design video game characters using Bloxels (shown here). It also has a 3D printer and virtual reality glasses.

 Cafeteria

Five students are smiling, exiting the stairway of a bus that says, "Food and Nutrition" on the side.
© OCPS FNS
Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida, serves over 1 million free meals each summer by bringing food to students by bus.

 

Students are lined up behind a golf cart filled with food that says, "Cruisin' Kitchen."
© OCPS FNS
The district uses a golf cart to bring dinner to students at high-poverty schools who participate in after-school activities spread out over a large campus.

 

A student is reaching into the back of a golf cart filled with boxed milk, fruit cups, and wrapped hot foods.
© OCPS FNS
The golf cart has hot and cold options. Districts in Alabama and Kentucky have also launched mobile summer meal programs.
Innovative Spaces

Climb Aboard: School Buses Reimagined

Mobile greenhouses, art studios, and makerspaces are traveling to underserved kids across the nation—salvaging vulnerable school programs and leveling the playing field to access.

 

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