Taking a Ride on the BioBus

I’ve always been a big fan of the Magic School Bus. Ms. Frizzle’s class trips blew away any field trip I’d ever been on, and I went on some pretty great field trips. Well, last Saturday I took a field trip of my own that involved a pretty magical bus. I went to Washington Square Park to check out the BioBus. I don’t know if the Magic School Bus was the inspiration behind the BioBus, but there was definitely a resemblance.

BiobusThe BioBus parked at Washington Square Park

As part of braiNY, New York City’s celebration of Brain Awareness Week, classes of students and people of all ages who happened to be walking by boarded the bus to check out the brains. Even in the snow, there was a constant stream of children, parents, dog-walkers, rollerbladers, foreign tourists, NYU students, and hip New Yorkers hopping on and off. Our partners at Columbia and NYU provided the bus with some of their own neuroscience research, brain tissue slides, and even a human brain. Outside the bus, tables were set up with Dana publications, brain samples, demonstrations using cockroach legs and even a print-making table where you could stimulate your creative circuits. My own masterpiece now graces my refrigerator. Once on the bus, visitors could observe an experiment with fruit flies or check out Alzheimer’s brain tissue, mouse brains, and worms under world-class microscopes.

Microscopes

The BioBus was a great way to bring science to the public. As a high-tech science laboratory on wheels, it brings the lab to the street. The 1970s fishbowl bus travels to schools, museums, summer camps, festivals, and after-school programs in New York and the rest of the country. Not only does the bus hold research-grade equipment, but it is carbon-neutral. It runs on biofuel, is powered by solar panels and a wind turbine, has a live green roof with plants and local grasses that keeps it cool in summer and a pellet burning stove to keep the bus warm on cold days like this past Saturday. Make sure to check out their website for more information (www.biobus.org).

SimonThe Dana Foundation’s Kathleen Roina and Simon Fischweicher

– Simon Fischweicher

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