The Albertville City School Board of Education recently announced it had completed the first phase of its STEM bus program.

As stated on livescience.com, STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.

Spring Charles, a computer science teacher at Albertville Middle School, and Terry Freeman, a Technology Coordinator for the Albertville City School system, both head the program. Both said they were excited to be a part of the program.

“Terry likes STEM as much as I do,” Charles said. “We’re blessed to have him on the project.”

Charles and Freeman have worked endlessly to get the program off its feet. Charles said that the bus is not yet finished. They have only completed phase one of five.

“Phase one is decoration of the outside,” Charles said. “Donnie Walker, a local artist, was kind enough to say ‘yes’ to this project and has done a wonderful job painting the exterior.”

Phase two is painting and touch up inside the bus. Charles said there isn’t an exact completion date that this phase will be completed, but that they’re working up to it.

The bus will house unique learning classes for schools all around Albertville, creating an “extended classroom” feeling. Freeman said that all the teachers will go under training this summer, but there wasn’t a specific meeting date.

Charles teaches her students using the Computer-Aided Design system but hopes to include the Tinker CAD system this upcoming school year.

“It’s initially a watered-down system to the main CAD program,” Charles said. “Almost like an introductory program. I haven’t really used it before, so I went and got a ‘Tinker CAD for Dummies’ book to learn along with my students.”

Through the program on the bus, Charles said the students would have a better, hands-on learning experience -an experience she has found much more engaging for students.

The bus will be loaded with nine ZSpace 3D computers and other technology kits to help the students have that hand on experience.

“We want to give these kids exposure to new technology,” Freeman said.

The overall plan for the STEM bus is to teach students that when learning, there are no mistakes, and also to identify more students who are talented in the science and technology field.

“The STEM program can give these kids a future,” Freeman said. “Set them up for college and jobs after. It’s a program that keeps building.”

“The city-wide reception has been great,” Charles said. “This has never been done before so it’s great to see everyone respond so positively.”

With four more phases still needing to be completed, Freeman and Charles both said that the STEM program wouldn’t be up and running until mid-fall.

“We’re shooting for October,” Charles said. “This should let us finish, as well as give the students and teachers enough time to integrate themselves back into the groove of school.”

Charles also said the students have already responded that they can’t wait for the STEM program to begin, giving Charles a good feeling about where the program should be heading when it gets its feet off the ground.

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