When kids board a bus for a field trip, they almost always become unmanageable.
As one elementary principal observed yesterday, "All you can do is yell at 'em to sit down and keep quiet."
Now, elementary pupils from Chester, Becket and Middlefield are pioneering a new kind of field trip. They ride in a federally financed "classroom on wheels," an audio-visual Armada designed to make them learn en route to cultural centers.
Melvin D. Ferris, superintendent of the three-town region, showed off his Project Mountaintop bus to about 80 educators and lay advisers at a reception and dinner at the Lenox House last night.
Ferris was the architect of the idea which won a $138,000 three-year federal grant under a law to advance creativity in education.
The bus, built by Wayne (Ind.) Bus Co. and equipped by Valley Cinema of Springfield, has movies, tape recordings and closed circuit TV, complete with camera.
The TV has not yet been paid for, because it was not written into the original project application. But Valley Cinema is so confident that the U.S. Office of Education will provide the necessary $4,000, that it has offered to leave the equipment in the bus.
On trips to cities as far away as Boston and Fall River, a teacher, in a swivel chair at the head of the bus, can conduct her class via loudspeaker or an intercom system. Children can participate in discussions by speaking through microphones.
At the rear of the bus on any given trip, one of two Chester housewives, Mrs. Fay Piergiovanni or Mrs. Ruth Ebelt, will be stationed to operate the electronic equipment.
The two "secretary-aides" took courses to master the use of audio-visual materials.
Driver of the bus will be Mrs. Arvilla Allaire, also of Chester.
Col. Charles A. Young of Chester, retired industrialist and World War II officer who directs the project, has a full schedule of field trips already set for between now and June.
Among the destinations will be the Springfield and Boston planetariums, Hartford's Constitution Plaza, the battleship USS Massachusetts, Leseur Farm in Ashfield, Berkshire Museum and Berkshire Athenaeum, Highlawn Farm in Lee, the University of Massachusetts, the Williamstown Observatory, Old Deerfield, Hurlbut Papers of South Lee, the Statehouse in Boston, and the Forest Park Zoo in Springfield.
Col. Young expects he will have many "bugs" to iron out before the end of the school year.
In the summer, he expects to use the bus for adult education. For example, he already envisions taking a group of grown-ups to Tanglewood, with a lecture en route on the concert they are about to hear.