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Wheels on the STEM Bus will Go ‘Round and ‘Round to Florence 1 Schools

Last spring the School Foundation awarded funding in the amount of $50,000 for a grant proposal for a STEM bus for Florence 1 Schools.STEM Bus

Florence 1 Schools STEM Director Chris Rogers submitted the proposal which outlined a need for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classroom which would be used by all Florence 1 students. A STEM bus is a state-of-the-art, custom-designed mobile classroom, and its wheels are now ready to begin rolling onto the campuses of Florence 1 Schools.

On October 1st, school officials, along with some community partners, unveiled the new Florence 1 Schools STEM bus.

School Foundation “The School Foundation has funded grants throughout the years supporting STEM in our schools.  We are thrilled that the STEM bus will directly impact students in all Florence 1 Schools, affording them the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom,” said Debbie Hyler, Executive Director of the foundation.  “The advanced interactive technology provided will enhance our students’ education, ultimately instilling the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in the working community.”  

The MUSC Health Florence Division has also partnered with Florence 1 MUSCSchools in its effort to provide the STEM learning experience for students in all Florence schools.

“Giving students opportunities to learn about health care, research and technology is important. MUSC Health Florence Division is proud to partner with Florence 1 Schools to support the STEM bus and bring more educational opportunities for our students and encourage them to pursue these jobs in the future,” Chief Executive Officer Vance Reynolds, MUSC Health Florence Division said.
STEM U, LLC, a consulting firm comprised of educators specializing in science, mathematics and technology converted the school bus into a STEM classroom. The bus has been transformed into an interactive learning environment that will provide a hands-on, engaging activity for the students.

Williams, Reynolds, O'Malley, Hyler "All students should be exposed to STEM,” said Chris Williams Director of Partnerships for STEM U, LLC. “Designing the STEM Bus ensures an equal playing field. STEM is not only the future, but it's a reality in our everyday lives. Understanding STEM and how it works to solve real-world problems enables our future generation to have the ability to be competitive while having sustainable careers."

According to Rogers, the mobile STEM classroom will be scheduled to visit every school and remain at each location for three to five days, depending on the size of the school. Visitations of the STEM bus will be set up on a rotation basis. He expressed that the STEM bus is designed to help encourage an early love of STEM with STEM lessons at every level.

“We want our students to become both engaged and enthusiastic about STEM-related topics, which we hope will lead them to become future scientists, technologists, and engineers. When the STEM bus visits the campus of each school, our students will experience a world of exploration while understanding various concepts of STEM,” he added.

When asked why STEM careers were important, Roger pointed to these outlined statistics: 
Rogers According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy. STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators.

“Many companies today have more STEM-related jobs than they have qualified candidates, and we hope that we can attract students to the STEM professions by using our STEM Bus and the STEM classes we have in our schools,” noted Rogers. “The STEM bus will provide lessons which focus on Engineering, Biomedical Science and Computer Science. We will be able to teach mini-lessons in all three of these areas which are designed to encourage students to take a full STEM course in their schools. There are several courses in our schools that will prepare students for pursuing a career in these areas,” he added.

Florence 1 STEM teachers also voiced their sentiments regarding the expected arrival of the STEM bus to their campuses.

“I am excited that the STEM Bus will be visiting our school because it will allow our students to experience STEM engagingly!” exclaimed Christina Davis, STEM Coach and teacher at Wallace- Gregg Elementary. “I believe that the STEM Bus will influence the career paths our students decide to take by simply making them aware of different STEM-related careers. I am proud to be a part of a district that puRibbon Cutting ts so much effort into ensuring that our students are prepared for the real world, no matter what path they decide to take.”

“The STEM Bus is a major coupe for Florence 1 Schools,” said Frankie Sullivan, STEM teacher at Southside Middle School. “Many of the opportunities offered by the STEM bus that would normally have to be scheduled months or even years in advance with budget restrictions are now available here and now! The learning engagement will be increased by using the STEM Bus. It will help to promote the multiple STEM classes offered by Florence 1 Schools, and hopefully, inspire students to
enroll in those classes.”

STEAM Activity “The STEM Bus will provide engaging and interactive opportunities for students to explore science, technology, engineering, and math interests with tools that may not be accessible in the classroom,” said Nichole Scipio, Biomedical Science STEM teacher at West Florence High School. “The STEM Bus tours throughout the district will give all students an opportunity to develop their interests as early as elementary school, and open their minds to the possibilities of a future in STEM careers,” she

Rogers also said, “We want our STEM Bus to be a part of the process in leading a student toward a career path that may lead to employment. We are inviting members of the STEM workforce in our community to provide feedback about the curriculum and how it is delivered.”

He further remarked, “We want to be a source of future employees for the Florence community. The ultimate goal of this project is to have students find a field they would like to study and take all of the courses in their school-related to that field. We also hope this will lead to possible student internships and ultimately full-time employees across Florence County. We are also planning to have days that the STEM Bus will be open to the public so adults and business owners can see what the students are doing and how their knowledge may benefit their local businesses.”

How the Program Will Work:
Each zone will provide students with opportunities to explore and solve real-world problems while providing exposure to STEM-specific careers and local industry challenges. The project will allow elementary and middle school students an opportunity to begin exploring STEM careers while giving high school students a chance to expand their curriculum in a specific STEM field. Teachers will also be able to explore how to use STEM concepts in their classes.

Rogers also noted that during the school year, demonstrations for local business and industry leaders will be provided in order to familiarize them with STEM educational opportunities offered in Florence 1 Schools from kindergarten through grade twelve.

About STEM U:
STEM U is a STEM Educational Consulting Company that provides STEM teacher development, classroom, mobile renovation, and conversions to K-12 providers. STEM U connects STEM industry principles to education. Its mission is to increase the connection between educators and youth through the platform of helping its partners implement and design sustainable STEM models and solutions. STEM U was founded in 2010 by Christopher Williams, President and acting Director of Partnership
Development. STEM U headquarters is in Charlotte, North Carolina, with regional offices in Columbia, South Carolina, and Raleigh, North Carolina.


Students inside STEM bus

Photo: The Florence 1 Schools STEM bus made its first school stop at John W. Moore. Students are shown involved in STEM activities on the bus.
Credits: Engineering for Kids