All Aboard! Norwood Elementary School’s new STREAM bus makes its debut


Norwood Elementary School hosted quite a celebration Thursday morning, replete with balloons and ceremonial red ribbons, a special program and school-wide assembly, dignitaries and words of praise, and singing from students and faculty alike, including some songs written just for the occasion.

So what was worthy of all the hoopla? The Dundalk school’s latest academic awards or achievements? An appearance from a sports star or celebrity? A visiting head of state?

In fact, with cheers and the snip of a ribbon, Norwood celebrated the arrival of its newest learning tool, the school’s new STREAM Project Bus.  The vehicle, a repainted former BCPS school bus retrofitted with new seats, benches, work stations with microscopes, and an array of science-related experiments and games, is patterned after the school system’s popular Parentmobile, which travels to communities and events across Baltimore County.

The Norwood bus – STREAM stands for Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics – has a more focused mission: to bring Norwood and its lessons to communities throughout the school’s attendance zone, thereby encouraging Norwood students and their families to use the bus as an extension of the classroom.

"The most amazing thing happened when we began to visit the bus," said parent Leanda Keyser. "We were able to spend time together and learn, and that was just wonderful to experience."

Starting April 7, the bus will take to the roads each Thursday afternoon, traveling to three sites in the school community. Norwood teachers and staff will be available on board to teach lessons and to provide parents with materials and services to further support learning outside of school.

Since last fall, the BCPS Parentmobile has been visiting Dundalk neighborhoods to acclimate families to the idea and benefits of a Norwood classroom on wheels that comes to them. 

This week’s unveiling and maiden voyage proved successful. "There were a lot of people at each of the stops," said Rai Cary of the Office of Family and Community Engagement, who drove the bus on Thursday. "There were consistently parents and kids mixed in the crowds, and that was much greater than what we saw last fall. There were easily double the number of people there (Thursday) than last year."

"And when you have 20-25 people on that bus, it’s crowded," said Cary, who estimated at least 75 parents and children visited the bus at its three stops on Thursday. "Every seat was filled."

The bus was the brainchild of Principal Pat Goldys. "Ten months ago, a need was realized at Norwood.  There were many families who wanted to participate in school learning tasks, but couldn’t get to the school.  So, Norwood decided to take the learning to the neighborhood," Goldys said. "The Norwood STREAM bus was born to extend learning, include parents, and have families participate in a unique mobile classroom experience.  This ‘learning on the go’ is another way to increase 24-7 learning activities for the students."

With assistance from community groups and a variety of BCPS offices and departments, including transportation, copy and printing, and science K-12, a bus was located, renovated, and finally unveiled during Thursday’s "gratitude assembly," Goldys said.

When students and their parents visit the bus, they can conduct experiments and learning exercises aboard the vehicle, and each child is invited to take home science materials and experiments to try at home. Goldys said she continues to see excitement grow over the unique vehicle.

"Today, in the hallways, students told me they love science and that they are coming to the bus today," she said. "They tell me they can’t wait to do experiments at home."

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Story and photos by Charles Herndon, Specialist, Office of Family and Community Engagement
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