In the Driver’s Seat

When I found out that I was going to learn how to drive a vehicle the size of a school bus I was nervous and excited. I enjoy learning new things, especially if the mission behind the learning impacts the students I meet. This blog entry is about my adventure with the Discovery Center STEAM Bus (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math).

Working at the Discovery Center as an Education Specialist has been one of the best jobs I have had. This local treasure that I call my workplace offers me a dynamic environment where I am constantly growing and inspiring students in the Middle Tennessee area. For about 3 years I have been working with an outreach project called Super Science. This program impacts the 4th grade students in the Murfreesboro City Schools with hands-on science activities to supplement in-classroom learning. The time spent helping these students has been so rewarding.

We have been visiting students in their classrooms for the past 5 years. The next step for this program is to add a mobile science laboratory. This vehicle is a full-sized school bus, which was donated to us through our partnership with Murfreesboro City Schools. The retired school bus is currently making its transformation into the STEAM Bus: seating removed, lighting, flat screens, cabinets, and workstations added.

This is where my part comes in: the S.T.E.A.M. Bus needs a driver! Driving a bus requires a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This is a two-step process: I had to first pass the knowledge tests and then pass a driver’s test. In order to learn how to maneuver a 40 foot long vehicle, I have been training with Jeff Nelson at the Murfreesboro City Schools Transportation Department. He has been teaching me exactly how to drive and park a school bus.

On Day One I found out that I love driving a large bus! I sit in the driver’s seat and see the world around me with a heightened perspective … pun intended! Every day Mr. Jeff has me perform a brake test, slow down for a railroad crossing, and go out on the roads. Additionally, I need to identify the outside components of the bus, emergency exits, and buttons on the dashboard. There will be 3 parking tests that I will have to pass: side-to-side, alley dock, and parallel park. I have found my driver’s training to be much easier than my knowledge testing! I use the side mirrors all the time and take my turns with caution. One fellow driver told me: “You will do fine as long as you remember that whatever you fit the front of the bus through that the back of the bus has to make it through too!”

Learning to drive a bus has been a great adventure! I cannot wait to bring people on the finished STEAM Bus and help them learn science in a fun way. My favorite moment in teaching is when a student has the “light bulb moment” when they truly understand how something works. I am honored to bring this program to the Middle Tennessee area and see that light bulb moment happen for those that I teach.

*Courtney Morgan graduated from Lee University in 2008 with her Bachelors in Biology. Mrs. Morgan has been working at the Discovery Center as an Education Specialist since July 2011. She loves teaching people of all ages and her favorite animal is the manatee.