Day Care Center on Wheels
(click to enlarge)
Mobile Day Care Training Unit - Tennessee Dept. of Human Services
Frances Taylor
Interior including; bin storage, flip-down loft platform, sink, overhead bungee storage for pillows & skylight
Sink with make-believe stove and craft paper dispenser below - simply crayon a pot roast on paper, bake at 350 for 1 minute, cut off and serve.
Ledger strips support flip-down table, window panels and games. Foam filled laundry bags with spray paint graphics in background provide inexpensive games and teaching tools.
Table in up position and see-in-colors panel with storage panel and magnetic alphabet below
Soft,colorful landing under loft which is in folded back to form work counters
Emergency exit

Frances Taylor, a day care specialist for the Tennessee Dept. of Human Services, needed a way to show communities in isolated rural corners of the state how to organize, furnish and operate low-cost but innovative child care facilities. She got an old school bus from the Nashville school district with the idea of creating a mobile demonstration classroom in which she could travel to these remote areas giving workshops and distributing supplies. Then she parked it in front of her suburban lawn and called us.

Gary, Sam and Rebecca loaded Joe's VW van with every odd material we could think of that might be impossible to find in Nashville and hit the road, driving down the Shenendoah ridges and through Appalachian hollers, eating grits and opening our eyes to an American landscape we had never imagined we would ever see growing up in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and London. We arrived at Frances' doorstep the day Elvis died, overcame the emotions and, like hippie elves, went to work with her and some of her employees, converting the bus into the "Mobile Day Care Training Unit".

Reaching into our bag of tricks, we pulled out all the stops, mixing metaphors freely as we went along. The first trick was getting more natural light into the bus so Gary climbed to the roof and boldly cut a circle to fit the plastic bubble we brought from New York. Joe, the most technically astute of our group, assured us that gaskets and lots of caulking would keep the rain out and kids in. Next, after lining the walls with ledger strips and storage cabinets for support, we built a fold-up loft that kids could stand on and poke their heads up into the roof bubble like gophers.

We stuffed foam blocks into the canvass laundry bags that Gary had spray painted with all kinds of graphic games and teaching aids which created a soft floor area in case of crash landings or individual cots for nap time. The graphics included a pretend telephone dial and clock face (so 20th century), calculator buttons, stop light, piano keyboard and many more.

We gave Frances a simple set of instructions to distribute to the folks in the rural towns and villages she visited. Basic how-to's on putting up ledger strips, painting useful graphics on walls, cheap but flexible storage systems etc. may have helped them create more sophisticated day care learning places than those in most big city schools, which didn't get visits from a very unconventional state "bureaucrat" like Frances.

10 years later, a preschool director told me she once saw the bus at an early childhood education conference in Texas, where it was being exhibited by the Tennessee Human Services folks. That's the last we ever heard of it. Maybe it's still out there.

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