MOUNT AIRY, N.C. — The Blue Bear Bus makes trips around Mount Airy to bring enriching STEM activities and a mini-library to students across the city.


What You Need To Know

  • The Blue Bear Bus travels around Mount Airy giving children access to STEM activities and summer reading throughout the summer
  • Tommy Simmons, a rising ninth grader, volunteers with the Blue Bear Bus annually
  • Students lose 17%-34% of what they learned in the previous year over the summer


Tommy Simmons was playing with friends at Riverside Park one day when he spotted a school bus pull up. He asked one of the adults coming off it why it was there, and they told him it was filled with hands-on activities for learning.

Simmons asked if he could volunteer by helping the Blue Bear Bus team unload the activities and assist children in learning and playing. Simmons loved it and chose to return the next year. 

“I thought I might give it a try, and I come here for a few days and I start to like it a whole lot, and so, I asked if I could volunteer here and they just let me volunteer and I’ve loved it ever since,” Simmons said. 

Now a rising ninth grader, Simmons is enjoying another summer volunteering with the Blue Bear Bus.

Simmons helps set up games like nine-square and Legos as he waits for kids to arrive for the day. Each week through June and July the Blue Bear Bus hosts a different theme. The school-aged children can participate in the hands-on activities or get on the bus and pick a book from the mini-library. 

“It makes me feel really happy to be a part of it and just to help them have fun,” he said. 

Summer reading can be fun for the children, but it prevents summer learning loss as well.

Students typically lose 17%-34% of what they learned in the previous year over the summer, according to a study by the American Educational Research Journal. A few hours of reading each week can fight against that.

During the school year, the Blue Bear Bus goes to different neighborhoods in the city for kids to enjoy some reading. They also provide school supplies, fresh produce and snacks and clothing for children in underserved communities. For more information on the Blue Bear Bus, click here