Prairie Lea students recycle, find magic in old school bus
By Alonzo Garza
Those familiar with “The Magic School Bus” series of children’s books intended to teach scientific concepts to children, will be happy to know “magic” like that is not limited to story books.
In the original series of books written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen and later, the animated television serie
s, a teacher, Ms. Frizzle, and her eight students board a magical school bus that takes them on field trips into impossible locations, such as the solar system, under the Earth’s crust and even inside the human body.
All the reader or viewer needs to be a part of the incredible adventures in “The Magic School Bus” is a little bit of imagination, a willingness to explore and the determination to make their dreams and ideas become a reality through hard work and cooperation.
A group of incredibly talented students at Prairie Lea High School have embraced those ideals to create a magic school bus of their own.
The “magic” school bus sits next to the Prairie Lea ISD Library and it is a sight to behold.
The old stick shift sat, abandoned and inoperable, in its current location for some time before the amazingly gifted and highly talented students of Judy Brown’s Gifted and Talented (GT) class embarked on the yearlong project of transforming the bus into a beautifully decorated and completely functional classroom in the shape of “The Magic School Bus.”
It is not difficult to believe in a little bit of magic looking at PLHS’s replica of Ms. Frizzle’s bus, reborn into a living laboratory for all of Prairie Lea’s students to enjoy.
The GT students at PLHS could not have completed their project without the help of the school and the communities it serves. The “magic” that made it all possible came from everyone involved in the transformation of the bus, and now the bus belongs to everyone.
“The PLISD school board gave their blessing to go ahead and transform the old 72-seater school bus into a learning center a year ago,” Brown said. “We began working on the bus on March 20, 2007, and here we are dedicating the bus on March 28, 2008.”
Also deeply involved in the renewal and ultimate rebirth of the bus were PLHS art teacher Corina Esquivel, PLHS shop teacher Shelly Hardaway, kindergarten-eighth grade principal Darren Kesselus and ninth-12th grade principal and superintendent Jesse Lopez.
“Each of them were instrumental in the success of the project,” Brown said. “Their support and participation throughout the process was invaluable.”
The transformation of the bus took on a life of its own. With everyone willing to help, it was a labor of love as opposed to real work.
The bus was given a thorough washing, inside and out, while delighted younger children volunteered to “hold the hoses,” Brown said.
Everything inside and outside of the bus was donated. Most of the original 36 seats were chiseled out, leaving only the three seats behind the driver’s seat for authenticity. Benches used to replace the seats were made by the PLHS shop students and painted by volunteers.
Carpeting, heating and air conditioning, as well as bookshelves and teaching materials for the inside of the bus, were all donated by local businesses and families.
The outside of the bus, as well as the ramp and trash containers, were designed and painted by the art classes at PLHS. The roof of the bus was painted silver by a volunteer parent.
Students and their parents stripped the grounds surrounding the bus and worked on both weekends and workdays to replace the dirt, turf and pathways around it. The picnic tables and gazebo were made in the PLHS woodworking shop and all flowers planted were donated.
The bus is a working classroom for all teachers and students to use. Brown is the coordinator for bus activities.
“It took a year to accomplish our goal,” she said. “But it cost the district nothing and brought parents, students and community volunteers together for a learning event”
Isn’t that what the Magic School Bus should be all about? It is refreshing to see that some schools still take chances at being innovative and creative at problem solving and teaching.
Many lessons were learned along the way and the students who participated in the project will remember those lessons for the rest of their lives.
The Prairie Lea Magic School Bus is now open for curious, adventurous visitors and anyone interested in visiting the bus can contact Brown at (512) 353-4505 or 512-757-3742. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.