There was a bus on the West Hernando Middle School campus last week that was not yellow.
The blue C-SPAN Civics Bus stopped by one morning, giving eighth-grade American history students the opportunity to see the inside of a mobile television and production studio.
C-SPAN is the television network that covers Congress. It is sponsored by cable television companies. The local sponsor is Bright House, and its community affairs manager, Edna Rohland, was at the school during the visit.
The bus was staffed by two marketing representatives, Vanessa Bailey and Rodee Schneider, and bus driver Mike Connors. The representatives took turns describing C-SPAN to the students. The children went into the bus in groups of about eight. They sat on a long couch that faced two monitors above counters with controls.
The back of the bus had a round table with chairs where interviews can be conducted. Beyond that was a small personal area for the C-SPAN representatives.
Bailey and Schneider showed some clips of news on the monitors and explained how C-SPAN works.
"We're a noncommercial, nonprofit network," Schneider said. The primary concern of the stations, he said, is to convey information.
C-SPAN has two such buses and the goal is to visit about four schools a week, Bailey said. "Between the two buses, since we've had them," she said, "we've been to all 50 states. Even Hawaii."
The buses also visit libraries, museums and other places of interest. "Places where we can get a crowd of people with an educational tie," Bailey said.
Besides educating children, the C-SPAN bus offers services to teachers. While at West Hernando, after they finished with the students, Bailey and Schneider gave a workshop to teachers.
"We make it as easy as possible to use C-SPAN in the classroom," Bailey said. There is information available to teachers at www.cspanclassroom.org.
The reason the bus made its way to West Hernando Middle School had everything to do with library media specialist Cecelia Solomon. C-SPAN offers fellowships to middle and high school teachers every summer for a four-week period.
Teachers must apply and, if selected, receive a stipend, money for housing and other expenses, videotapes of C-SPAN programming from the C-SPAN archives and round-trip airfare to Washington, D.C. The teachers develop the education materials for C-SPAN.
Solomon attended the fellowship program this past summer.
"It was just amazing," she said, "and it's just terrific that I'm able to share that with the students."
She said she is available to social study teachers at other schools and has had a workshop with other library media specialists. She arranged for the bus to visit.
During the morning the bus was visiting, School Board member James Yant came by and was impressed with the opportunity it gave to the students.
"Any time you can introduce a way to learn in a different way, I think they absorb what they learn better," Yant said. "(It) helps explain what the media is about. When they can touch it and feel it firsthand, they get a better idea of what the media is all about."