When transportation officials in Muskogee, Okla., saw a rickety old school bus they couldn't sell, Kim Shelton saw lunch.
A lunch bus, that is.
Inspired by the chance to attract more low-income students to a free summer lunch program, the director of food and nutrition services for the 6,000-student Muskogee district decided to turn an old clunker into a retro cafe on wheels.
With the help of other school employees, Ms. Shelton removed the bus seats and replaced them with a black-and-white-themed lunch counter with swivel stools, a generator, and a refrigerator.
The traditional yellow exterior was painted bright white, and all summer long the mobile cafeteria served students in a park near a neighborhood elementary school.
During the school year, the bus will be parked outside Muskogee High School every morning to lure teenagers into eating healthy breakfasts.
She also plans to offer meals on the bus as an incentive to students, particularly to those who get perfect attendance, or to entire well-behaved classes.
The 440 pupils at Charleston Elementary School in Arkansas will be headed outside for more than recess this year.
They'll learn about plant and animal habitats, food chains, and meteorology in their new "outdoor classroom," a 30-acre tract adjacent to the school.
The land had been overgrown and unused by the city of Charleston until officials from the Franklin County Soil Conservation District asked school officials whether they could turn it into an learning tool.
The answer was a resounding yes. After the city leased the land to the school for $1, the teachers started planning ways to use it.
"The possibilities are just limited by your imagination," said Carl Underwood, the school's principal. For example, he said, kindergartners plan to monitor trees and plants in the park throughout the seasons.
Gloria Edwards, the science teacher who organized the project, said her students will set up a weather station in the outdoor classroom and will send their findings to an international study of schools organized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In addition, she said, an amphitheater built on the land by volunteers and staff members will be a distinctive place for the school to hold concerts, plays, and poetry readings.
--JESSICA L. SANDHAM & DAVID J. HOFF
Vol. 18, Issue 1, Page 3