By Giavonni Nickson
On September 25 C-SPAN brought its $1.2 million bus to Gary IN. In partnership with Comcast, C-SPAN’s award-winning bus planted seeds for civic engagement and stirred student interest through interactive learning at Aspire Charter Academy.
The state-of-the-art, 45-foot customized mobile classroom and production studio is part of a seven-week tour across 10 states. The tour kicked off in Iowa with planned stops in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Aspire Charter Academy students boarded the bus with bright eyes and a resounding, “Wow.”
Aboard the high-tech, interactive C-SPAN bus students discovered:
- A smart TV and classroom area for conversations with students and teachers
- A high-definition TV production studio for taped and live programming
- A 360-degree video station featuring C-SPAN’s unfiltered coverage of high-profile events and insightful, behind-the-scenes tours of U.S. landmarks
- A D.C.-themed selfie station where visitors can share their Bus experiences through social media
- Access to an exclusive interactive experience available on 11 large-screen tablets featuring C-SPAN programming and myriad political and educational resources
Heath Neiderer, Marketing Manager for C-SPAN Networks said, “We use technology as a hook to talk about what C-SPAN does while making an impact on students in our mobile classroom.”
In the studio, fifth graders sat up straight and cleared their voices to conduct peer mock interviews. They asked, “What do you know about government?” and “Would you like to work for C-SPAN?” The students had no shortage of answers for one another, demonstrating what they learned in the classroom and their excitement to have a hands-on experience.
During a discussion on the three levels of government students anxiously raised their hands to answer questions, proving their retention of classroom curriculum. Eager to learn more they asked pressing questions and even did a drumroll as the C-SPAN marketing team announced answers.
The C-SPAN bus experience may have even sparked some students’ interest in journalism.
“I believe this gives our students a chance to experience hands-on journalism and a career in the field. They are really learning about the process of gathering news and sharing it with the world,” said Ashley Pratt, Dean of 3-5th grade and Intervention. “I heard the kids talk about being interested in careers in this field. Now that they’ve had exposure it gives them more insight.”
The bus provided a pathway for students to link what they learned to the C-SPAN television coverage that airs in approximately 90 million households.
School staff, administrators, and students mirrored excitement about the bus visit.
“I was very excited to learn that Aspire was selected,” said Renee Flynn, 5th-grade social studies and science teacher. “When students first heard about the bus, they didn’t know what to expect. After gaining the first-hand experience they didn’t want to leave the bus.”
Proud Principal ReNae Robinson said, “I was excited about the opportunity this presents to our scholars, especially with elections coming up. This helps them be a part of that process.
Our school has made great changes and gained success. This adds to it. It’s the cherry on top.”
CSPAN, a non-biased and non-partisan media outlet, started the bus program over 25 years ago with the mission to educate students and teachers across the country on what they do and how their classroom resources can be used.
“We show things in their entirety so you can make an informed decision. We are a great primary resource for teachers and students to use for papers and in the classroom,” said Neiderer.
C-SPAN has three television networks and great online resources. At CSPAN.org teachers and students can access over 250 thousand hours of information about the federal government and the people who represent them in Washington DC.
Fifth grade reading teacher Diana Hubbard’s first-hand experience using C-SPAN resources prompted her to help bring the bus experience to Gary. “I am a C-SPAN class member. I utilized their lesson plans and videos. It’s helped me because they have resources for government and news on the C-SPAN website, so I don’t have to search for lesson plans.”
When the C-SPAN marketing team informed Hubbard that the bus would be in the area Hubbard jumped at the chance for Aspire students to take part in it. News about the opportunity quickly spread among school administration.
“When Diana Hubbard brought it to Dean Pratt and Dean Pratt brought it to me, I said let’s go for it,” said Principal Robinson. “Then when I found out we were the only ones in Northwest Indiana the bus was visiting I said, ‘wow this will put us on the map and help our children learn.’ I’m always excited to partner will people that can help support their learning.”
Rosalyn Gonzalez said, “When I found out about the bus, I was a little star-struck and didn’t really know what to expect. I hope this will expand their minds and make them want to know more about things going on in the world.”
For over 25 years students have gained value in the mobile bus program.
“Our mobile bus is going strong and the reaction from students all over the country is great. This is a very rewarding job because we are bringing something that is positive that they can use for their studies and people appreciate it,” said Neiderer.
Neiderer and the rest of the C-SPAN mobile bus team are not done cruising across the country.
Next stops on the tour are:
September 26-27 Detroit, MI
September 30 Ann Arbor, MI
October 1 Battle Creek, MI
October 2 Kalamazoo, MI
October 3 Massillon, OH
Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.