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21 November, 2022

A Civics Classroom on Wheels

A Civics Classroom on Wheels

Highland Electric Fleets is crazy about school buses, and it’s hard to miss it. Its Beverly, Massachusetts office is decked out in butterscotch walls, butterscotch Highland hydroflasks, and butterscotch graphic prints along its halls. Around the office, shots of 1980s Beverly hang beside photographs of beaming schoolgirls and magazine clips featuring 1970s Loadstar buses. Look around at the office desks, and you’ll see miniature school buses the size of your palm.

But don’t let the palm-sized models fool you; Beverly’s real electric buses are dreaming big. In 2020, Beverly began buying some of New England’s first electric school buses through Highland. They had two by the next year. Beverly bus driver Gerrie Cahill got to drive one of them.

Since switching over from the diesel bus, Gerrie’s heard conversations unlike anything else in her nearly three decades on the job. That's because, for the first time, the students can hear each other. That got her thinking: What if she could revolutionize school bus conversation?

Rolling by peeling townhouses with a bus full of kids, Gerrie's had politicians and school officials deliver elevator pitches about the importance of voting and mini-lessons on community citizenship. She has transformed the ride to the classroom into a civics classroom on wheels.

Here’s the story behind that transformation, what it did to the kids, and how it created a surprising new forum for civic education in Beverly.

Click here to listen to Gerrie's story.

Frank Zhou is a student and climate organizer at Harvard whose work is featured by or forthcoming in the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, Harvard University Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the National Council of Teachers of English, Anne Frank Center USA, and more. He hosts The Harvard Crimson’s flagship news podcast, Room Tone.

Happier drivers. Better-behaved riders. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Highland makes it easy. Contact us to discover how.