Nostalgia on Wheels
November 17, 2023
The iconic yellow hue of a school bus is more than just a color; it’s a symbol of safety, community, and shared experiences. School buses have the power to transport us back to a time when the biggest concern was whether we’d get our favorite seat and who’d be next to us. Spotting a school bus on the road is like watching a childhood memory being formed.
Aspen Country Day School students understand that traveling to and from the Castle Creek campus is not just a ride, but rather an extension to the beginning and end of their day. ACDS Physical and Outdoor Education teacher Kelsey Dunn, who drives the school’s Green bus route each day, embraces those rides with anticipatory nostalgia for herself and each of her passengers.
“My favorite part is starting and ending the day with this great sub-community of students that you see every day and year after year,” Kelsey said. “The bus is a direct extension of our community, and for our downvalley students, it is more than just a means from Point A to Point B.”
ACDS runs five daily bus routes throughout the Roaring Fork Valley for its Preschool through Eighth Grade students. All ACDS buses are driven by teachers and staff and include an additional faculty member as a chaperone. Fortunately with more than one third of ACDS students living outside the Aspen School District and traveling from Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Willits, Basalt and Old Snowmass, the rides always provide an abundance of entertainment.
Inside the buses, a symphony of chatter, laughter, and occasional sing-alongs fill the aisles. The rhythmic hum of the engine becomes the score to friendships forged during those daily rides. The changing scenery outside the window becomes a backdrop to daydreams and wide-ranging conversations. The bus ride is a journey that transcends physical distance by creating a collaborative experience binding a diverse group of individuals into a close-knit crew.
“We do traffic trivia, have a gallery of student art through the years, help each other, and admire every hot air balloon along the way,” Kelsey said. “The other day I got to listen to a Fifth Grader and Kindergartener singing holiday songs together.”
“School starts on the bus,” Fifth Grader Fleur V. said. “And I like being able to start my day by sitting on the bus and talking to my friends.”
“Something I try to think about each morning is that the bus driver and chaperone are the first ‘teachers’ that our kids see each and every day,” said ACDS Fifth Grade Math & Science teacher Brett Nelson, who drives the Blue bus route, “and that a positive, supportive, and warm welcome always seems to me like the best way to start each school day. Whether you are in PreK or Eighth Grade, the other bus students provide the very first ‘school’ interactions each day, so it’s important to keep the same community expectations that we encourage at school.”
Some of the first lessons in childhood independence often come at the bus stop with the shared anticipation of the journey — whether the gathering of friends or the camaraderie of facing the elements together. Navigating the unwritten rules of bus etiquette is a rite of passage is part of the experience, with the familiarity of the rituals adding to the sense of belonging.
“You can get to know kids in the younger and older grades,” said Fifth Grade Mae B. “Everyone on the bus is really kind.”