School bus riders throughout Wyoming will receive informative and entertaining instruction on bus safety, driver appreciation and fellow rider respect through Take Pride in Your Ride, a program developed by Marvin Nash, a professional rodeo clown, and his wife, Darlene, in conjunction with the Wyoming Department of Education (DOE).
D. Leeds Pickering, director of the Health, Safety and Nutrition Unit within the Wyoming DOE, said Nash, who has been teaching kids about the dangers of bullying at school and in the classroom through his Bullying Hurts program, approached the DOE last year about creating a similar program for the school bus.
Pickering worked with Nash on fine tuning the program for school bus riders, and the DOE recently entered into a contract with Nash for him to visit all 48 school districts within the state and speak with the transportation administrators, business managers and superintendents to explain the benefits of the program and encourage them to implement it at their districts.
“As of right now, the only district that the program has been taught at is Laramie County School District 1 in Cheyenne,” Pickering told SBF in an interview in January, “and it’s only been taught to the bus drivers — it hasn’t gone to the high school and elementary school students yet.”
Nash visits the pupil transportation operation and reviews with the school bus drivers the program’s goals and how to use its materials — a teacher handbook, a student handbook and a DVD.
Once the drivers are trained, they can volunteer to conduct a workshop to teach a group of high school students the program’s content and how to implement it in elementary classrooms. (Nash said that the school bus drivers are taught how to engage the high school students to become mentors to the elementary school students.)
The DVD and handbooks contain the content of the program’s sessions. In the rodeo-themed DVD, Nash, dressed in his clown makeup, reviews each of the sessions and the drivers and students can follow along in the handbooks. (Nash said the mentors should use the DVD when instructing the younger students.)
“The sessions are comedic, with a point,” Nash said. “Education starts when students get on the bus in the morning, so the program helps the bus ride take on meaning for students — the bus and the bus driver are essential parts of the education process.”
To that end, the sessions pose such questions as “Why am I on this bus?” and “Who is the boss on the bus?” They also cover bullying and bus safety by asking such questions as “What is bus safety?” and “What is bullying?” along with posing fill-in phrases like “Bullying makes me feel …” and “Most of the time I am bullied at …”
Pickering said that the questions are designed to generate an open discussion among the drivers (and then among the elementary school students when they are taught by the high school students).
Principals, counselors or other district officials are responsible for selecting the high school students who will instruct the elementary school students.
“It’s usually students who belong to a group, such as students in student council or an honor society,” Pickering said. “The elementary school kids look up to these students, and by going to the schools and teaching the kids and having them develop answers to the program’s questions themselves, you get buy-in from everyone.”
Once Take Pride in Your Ride is operating at more Wyoming districts, Pickering hopes to have school districts in other states implement it.
“The plan is to go wherever nationwide places will have it. We’re very excited about this program, and we’re going to do everything we can to get this training off the ground so that kids understand anti-bullying tactics on the school bus.”
For more information about Take Pride in Your Ride, visit www.takeprideinyourridebussafety.com or e-mail [email protected] or David Koskelowski, program manager of traffic safety and pupil transportation for the Wyoming DOE, at [email protected].