Spotlights
Norwood Elementary Is Taking a Road Trip
09/28/2015

Spotlight

The idea – the one that makes her beam and talk excitedly these days, even for her – came to Pat Goldys and her Norwood Elementary School leadership team after seeing the BCPS Parentmobile.

The Parentmobile, a mainstay of community outreach for the school system for nearly two decades, is a converted old school bus, retrofitted inside with padded benches, three computer stations, children,s games, and rows of informative education brochures, booklets, handouts, and flyers. Bearing a spiffy blue-and-white paint job, it travels across the county to festivals, back-to-school nights, and community meeting spots in an effort to bring useful school resources to parents and other caregivers often too busy to make it to school events or PTA meetings.

"We had been getting feedback from teachers and families about how hard it was to come to school for school events," says Goldys, Norwood,s energetic principal. "So we were brainstorming one day on how to involve families who wanted to get to school and we came up with ‘Let,s get a bus and let,s take the science experiments to the families.,"

So a year ago, the energetic principal of Norwood Elementary School in Dundalk began investigating the same sort of outreach to parents in her own school community that the Parentmobile provides across Baltimore County. Given a green light by the school system,s transportation office, Norwood soon will take ownership of its own repurposed BCPS school bus. If parents can,t make it to Norwood, Goldys says, "we,ll take Norwood to them."

Called the Norwood STREAM Bus, the vehicle will make stops once a week at three Dundalk locations near where many students live. Each Thursday, according to plans, the mobile classroom will visit the corner of Holabird and Marshall avenues from 4-4:25 p.m., the Holabird East Apartments, parking lot from 4:30-4:55 p.m., and a yet-to-be-determined stop along Delvale Avenue from 5-5:30 p.m.

STREAM stands for Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.  

At each stop, the STREAM Bus will encourage families to come on board and participate in a learning project that incorporates technology, reading, and other disciplines. In addition, each student or their parents will be provided with one of 30 mini science experiments to take home and use. Goldys also plans to have a "museum" aboard the bus providing a learning centerpiece for the vehicle.  

"The goal is to get our kids learning 24/7," she says. "We,ve been working on this so long; we think of it like an airplane now. Each seat will have a tray that will act as an individual learning station for a child and his or her parents."

Partnered with Stacey Wade, a parent volunteer who will ride the bus along with a teacher and school social worker, Goldys envisions the bus as a way for families to connect with the school in ways that will support their children.  The project also has received support from members of the nearby Captivate Christian Church, who will soon spend a day renovating the Norwood bus and who recently spent hours stuffing enough material for 30 weekly science experiments into 1,500 giveaway bags.   

"I want it to be like the ice cream truck in the neighborhood, coming down the street and giving children a treat. Only ours will be science experiments to do with their parents either at home or on the bus," Goldys says. Children and parents will be able to log their work in an onboard journal, and parents will be able to take home plenty of ideas for home activities.

The project unofficially launched on a recent Thursday afternoon when the BCPS Parentmobile trundled through Dundalk as a stand-in for the Norwood bus. A fanciful STREAM banner plastered to the side of the vehicle let everyone know this was not an ordinary Parentmobile visit.

Norwood Elementary's STREAM Bus project

The first voyage netted 30 children and 23 parents, many of them curious about what this odd-looking bus had to offer. The vehicle got plenty of inquisitive stares from Norwood students as well who, class by class, visited the bus earlier in the day. 

Goldys expects the Norwood bus to be delivered to the school in early October. After a period of renovation, the vehicles should be ready for the road by end of the month.

"I really feel like we,ve come full circle," she says. "We’re at a point where we have parents who enjoy coming to the school to learn and support their child, and we have parents who enjoy having activities at home to help support their child.

"I want to reach them all."        

For more photos, visit the BCPS Flickr site at www.flickr.com/photos/bcps/albums/72157658547424820.

Story and photos by Charles Herndon, specialist, BCPS Family and Community Engagement.
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