QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Hovey Pond Park is often a place to relax and get closer to nature, offering a peaceful pond and community garden. On Friday, though, it was busier than usual – and the main attraction never left the parking lot.
The “Q-Munity Bus,” a blue school bus created by Queensbury Union Free School District, was parked outside Hovey Pond Park on Friday for a host of educational kids activities. Focused around STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – those activities are exactly what the bus was made for.
“Whatever we think that kids need, we can put on this bus,” explained Queensbury Middle School STEM teacher Jacqueline Moeller. “We can bring this bus as a library, to different areas, and we tailor it to the needs of who we’re going to visit.”
On Friday, that meant an elementary school-level introduction to coding, using an OSMO learning kit. Kids slide letters into the top of a box reminiscent of a tic-tac-toe board, which then communicates with a game running on one of a series of tablets lining one wall of the bus – giving elementary learners a way to talk to computers in code.
Outside, more groups of young learners communicated in code by controlling mechanical “Ozbots” robots; built a new part for the Hovey Pond playground; and piloted robotic cars in a race, following a reading of “The Tortoise and the Hare.” The story was picked in part for its resonance with Moeller’s own approach to teaching kids about the world of STEM.
“My catchphrase for the kids is ‘We fail forward.’ We do something once, it doesn’t work, we say, ‘Whoops,’ and try again.”
The creation of the Q-Munity Bus wasn’t exactly a process of failing forward, but it did involve a lot of patience. The project was the brainchild of Queensbury School Superintendent Kyle Gannon, who joined the district in February 2020 – mere weeks before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It would be a couple years before Queensbury’s technology director and another school STEM teacher would begin collaborating with other staff and working at the school bus garage to bring the unique idea to life in 2022.
So far, the Q-Munity bus has visited the different buildings of Queensbury’s school campus, offering different types of STEM education depending on what grades were climbing aboard to check it out. Next week, the bus will make stops at Queensbury communities including Homestead Village, Forest Park, West Glens Falls Fire Department, and Jenkinsville Park. At every stop along the way, the bus will double as a way for the district to check in with families.
“Over the summer, we always look for ways to connect with our families,” said Queensbury Elementary School Principal Jessica Rossetti. “What better way to showcase the bus?”
Queensbury Union Free School District plans to announce future bus visits on the school website.