At Old Donation School, eighth graders are taking control of a project aimed to turn a retired school bus into a traveling education center.

The project began with the school system's gifted program. School principal, Dr. Kelly Hedrick, had read about a school bus conversion and brought up the idea to her fellow teachers. Eighth grade civics teacher, Jared Fritzinger, was on board.

Each year, eighth graders are required to complete what is known as a capstone project. This is a year-long exploration into a topic of their own choice. The question or problem is answered and solved using independent research. At Old Donation School, students have the option of economic, environmental, or social issues affecting their community. They also have the choice to complete group projects.

The concept appealed for several reasons:

  • It would fit nicely into Fritzinger's students' capstone project requirements,
  • he has retained an affinity for bus and van conversions after touring with a band for several years.

"It was too good to ignore. I knew the students would jump on it, if we had the means to get them a bus."

Old Donation School eighth grade civics teacher Jared Fritzinger

Seeing enthusiastic student response, Fritzinger enlisted the help of earth science teacher, Dianna McDowell, and Assistant Principal Janet Smallwood joined to lend expertise.

With the assistance of the division's Office of Sustainability member Tim Cole, retired school bus No. 914 was resurrected. Gym floorboards from former elementary school, Princess Anne Elementary, were reused. (Reuse your grocery bags by purchasing these instead of using single-use plastic.) The students removed the seats and are focusing on areas of interest while the engine is converted to run on vegetable oil. It currently uses diesel.

Students are working in teams to address the interior design, educational components, and documentation of the project. Thirteen-year-old Emma Robbins said that her group is focusing on education.

"We're doing research on the best ways to create a curriculum on environmental sustainability, so kids can have fun and learn at the same time. We know positive emotions make information easier to learn and more retainable, so we're trying to think of ways to make it enjoyable."

Thirteen-year-old Old Donation School student Emma Robbins

Students are welcoming community assistance. This help is needed in areas such as interior design, construction, electrical and solar work, and sustainable elements like furniture and seating. (Qualify your ability to help with these seed paper business cards. Instead of throwing them away when finished, plant them to grow beautiful wildflowers.)

"We're having weekly meetings to discuss ideas and make plans, and we're open to help or advice from anyone."

Thirteen-year-old Old Donation student and interior design team member Miranda Glover

Fritzinger said that he plans to obtain a commercial license so he can operate "Eco Bus."

"Right now, the real work is in front of the students--figuring out what needs to be done and how to do it. They understand this is for all the community."

Old Donation School eighth grade civics teacher Jared Fritzinger