Buster the Bus teaches Parkway kindergartners the basics of bus safety
By: Carol Enright
They say that the best source is “straight from the horse’s mouth.” But when it comes to bus safety, the Parkway School District thinks the bus just might have something to say about that – literally.
Buster the Bus, an animated, mechanical bus that stands about chest high to most of its audience, has been teaching incoming kindergarten students in the Parkway School District about bus safety since 1998. Unlike a full-sized bus – which Buster calls his older brother, Billy Bob – Buster can talk, spin, open and close his eyes and even dance.
But Buster is no pre-recorded robot. (Shhh … kindergartner spoiler alert.) As Rick Heidger, school bus safety instructor for Parkway, leads Buster through his presentation at each of the district’s elementary schools, two Parkway bus drivers hide off stage controlling his voice and movements. Sue Ciskowski is the voice of Buster. Bill Goodbread directs Buster’s movements with a remote control unit. According to the veteran bus drivers, the children have no idea they are the brains and brawn behind the bus. They only see Buster.
As incoming kindergartners gathered at Green Trails Elementary School in Chesterfield on Aug. 7, the program started with Buster “taking a nap,” with his “eyes” (headlights) shut and “snoring” loudly. Heidger asked two boys from the audience wake up Buster by tickling him. When that didn’t work, the children roused the slumbering school bus by singing “The Wheels on the Bus.” From that point on, Buster stole the show.
Buster went through basic bus safety rules, such as look both ways before crossing the street, don’t get off the bus until it comes to a complete stop, and use your inside voice on the bus. But Buster spent most of his time talking about “the danger zone.”
The little bus told the children never to stand behind or too near the bus.
“The closer you are to the bus, the harder it is for the bus driver to see you. So anywhere all around the bus is the danger zone,” said Buster.
Buster told the kids he used a deep, “scary” voice to say danger zone, “because it’s a very scary place to be.”
Buster also told the children to listen for his favorite sound before stepping onto the bus. Then, with a little help from Ciskowski, Buster made the sound of his air brakes.
No doubt, Buster knew how to play the crowd. When he called his crossing arm “my fly swatter,” giggles erupted. And when the little bus, who apparently has allergies, blew his “nose” into Heidger’s tissue, a delighted 5-year-old squealed, “That’s gross!” But when Buster made good on his promise to dance with the principal and teachers if the children answered all of his safety questions correctly, the kids went wild.
All that dancing wore out the little bus, who quickly “fell asleep” after he “busted a move.” Then, Heidger invited the children to pet Buster on their way out of the library to take a ride on Billy Bob, who was waiting in the parking lot.
Parkway kindergartners had the chance to try out all their new found safety know-how when school started bright and early on Aug. 14.
Top Ten Bus Safety Rules
(Courtesy of the Parkway School District.)
1. Be at the bus stop early.
2. Respect the bus driver and listen to instructions.
3. Take your seat right away after boarding the bus.
4. Stay seated at all times.
5. Always get on and off the bus at your bus stop.
6. Leave the bus carefully using the handrail.
7. Keep your head, arms, legs and hands inside the bus.
8. Look both ways before crossing the road.
9. Wait for the bus in a safe place away from the road.
10. Keep away from the bus if you drop or forget something.