Field trips typically involve students getting out of school and going to a museum, planetarium, or historical site.
But Christine Cohen of Chandler has found a way to reverse this concept by bringing the field trip to schools.
She and her husband, Steve, bought a school bus a couple years ago and revamped it to serve as a mobile learning center.
Inside their bus are several work stations that provide hands-on activities related to Arizona history.
There’s a station involving lemons to represent the state’s citrus industry. Another one has cow figurines to symbolize Arizona’s abundance of cattle ranchers.
In the early years of statehood, Arizona’s economy was dominated by cotton, copper, cattle, citrus, and the climate – otherwise known as the five C’s.
Cohen said she wanted to find a way to bring an activity to students that not only taught them a civics lesson, but would engage them through games and objects.
“I just felt like the elementary school students needed more hands-on learning,” Cohen said, “because it was just becoming impossible for teachers to coordinate and provide these types of hands-on learning activities.”
Cohen worked as a substitute teacher in Valley schools and noticed some struggled to provide field trips for students.
The cost to transport students to a location can be thousands of dollars, she said, which can be a major hindrance for some school districts.
The Cohens launched Arizona Mobile Education last year and has already visited more than a dozen schools across the East Valley.
Cohen said some schools don’t have time to fit Arizona history into elementary curriculum, so their bus can fill an important gap. The students get to touch cotton seeds, squish copper pennies, learn about solar panels, and even pet a bearded dragon.
“Which has nothing to do with Arizona, but he’s super cool and the kids love him,” Cohen added about the reptile.
The bus offers about two hours of programming for elementary students and can visit any school in Maricopa County.
The field trips start at $9 per student and the Cohens are trying to obtain corporate sponsorships for schools unable to afford the cost.
Teachers get to customize their field trip by picking from a selection of learning modules that emphasize one particular subject of Arizona history.
The most popular module teaches students about Arizona’s state flag, Cohen said, because they get to create their own flag out of pre-cut materials and take it home.
Cohen continues to tweak curriculum and hopes the business can expand enough to be able to service schools outside the Valley.
“You never know where an idea’s gonna strike you,” Cohen said, “and so I’m constantly on the lookout and thinking about how I can change or add activities into the program.”