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The Magic School Bus

Updated on August 30, 2013

Learning Science Through a Magical Series

The Magic School Bus series has its own form of magic: the every day form when you see a child's eyes light up -- or roomful of children sit in rapt attention. And it's been entertaining children for 20 years. It's long been one of own my favorite series to use with elementary schoolers. When I taught second and third grade combination classes in Arizona, I began the day with a picture book or two -- usually ones that related to our studies: social studies, science, the craft of writing. Weekends at the library, I would scrounge the week's supply of books. If there was a Magic School Bus book or two that related, it went with me.

The Magic School Bus was great for us. We were a charter school, and not only did we lack a school bus of our own, we lacked a budget to buy a lot of science materials. We raised caterpillars in the spring, made some models, and collected bits of our desert world, but there was a lot that wasn't hands on. The children learned more from the adventures of Ms Frizzle than from texts.

The Magic School Bus series can be used in conjunction with the science curriculum, either in the classroom or at or homeschool table.

What is the Magic School Bus?

Most kids like field trips -- but can only dream of doing what the children in The Magic School Bus series get to do. The stories tend to start with a common element: It's a 'normal' day in Ms. Frizzle's classroom when she announces the class is going on a field trip. (Yes -- apparently without the need for permission slips.) Off they go and then... something happens! The bus may change shape. It may grow smaller. The class will find themselves in the midst of a very hands-on science adventure. They may explore microscopic worlds or blast off into the solar system.

The original Magic School Bus series books are very 'busy'. The pages carry a storyline, but you will also see science information in the form of the children's own handwritten reports. The speech bubbles, too, are fun. Here children are introduced to some of the characters in Ms. Frizzle's class, who --like real people -- can be some 'real characters'.

Over the year, there have been a variety of Magic School Bus series, including chapter books, beginning readers, and books based on the TV series. There have also been a number of other themed materials. You can watch The Magic School Bus on DVD, or explore science topics with relatively inexpensive science kits.

Explore the Water Cycle with 'The Magic School Bus'

The water cycle is an important concept in the primary curriculum -- and a relatively easy one to explore in a real world context. The Magic School Bus kids get a more exciting adventure, though. Who else has ever had the chance to evaporate or precipitate themselves? Now that's hands on science!

The Magic School Bus At The Waterworks
The Magic School Bus At The Waterworks

The Magic School Bus at the Water Works is one of the charming originals, complete with details like kid-drawn science reports (about the water cycle) near the margins.

 

Spotlight on Desert Ecosystems

Many important concepts can be explored through a study of the desert habitat. How are living things adapted for life in the desert? You may or may not have a desert in your neighborhood, but the children in Ms Frizzle's class -- a you might guess -- get up close to some desert creatures.

This is from the series based on the TV version of The Magic School Bus. It's not quite as detail-rich as the original series, but still a fun and educational read.

The Magic School Bus: All Dried Up: A Book About Deserts
The Magic School Bus: All Dried Up: A Book About Deserts

Ms Frizzle's class learns about the desert -- and yours can too! Read about desert adaptations.

 

The Magic School Bus and the Environment

In recent times, The Magic School Bus has focused on 'going green' and being earth friendly.

Meet the Illustrator: Bruce Degen

Learn a little about the creation of the Magic School Bus books. Illustrator Bruce Degen talks about the collaborative process between himself and author Joanna Cole, and also about the philosophy behind the books.

Spotlight: The Life Cycle of Plants

Planting seeds is something just about all of us can do in our classrooms and our homes -- even if we lack pricey equipment. For mastering the terminology, though, and constructing diagrams and models, though, count on Ms. Frizzle for a little help. She can go places most of us only dream of...

This is another one that's based on the TV show.

The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds: A Book About How Living Things Grow
The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds: A Book About How Living Things Grow

The Magic School Bus sprouts wings -- and the children learn about plant life cycles.

 

More Magic School Bus Lesson Plans

Look for books -- and supporting lessons -- that reinforce the themes you are already studying.

Extension

Do your students want to write their own Magic School Bus book for a subject they're studying? (This is good for slightly older children.)

Magic School Bus Chapter Book: The Truth About Bats

Here's a third series for children who have crossed the bridge to chapter books. This particular book counters some of the myths children may have about bats. The book features facts the class is learning in school; some sections are nonfiction and heavy on facts, but they're woven into a dialogue-rich story.

More Magic School Bus Products

You can also find science kits and electronic learning tools.

Thoughts on the Magic School Bus?

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      My kids enjoy the series on PBS kids. It's quite amusing. I've never read the book series. We'll have to give it a try.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You might be surprised to know that I hadn't heard of The Magic School Bus before.

      A very nice review. ~ Happy Holidays!

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      When my oldest child was young, we joined the "Magic School Bus Club" via Scholastic! They sent us all of their books (one at a time) along with fun "puzzle books", related books, and experiment equipment with each shipment. I am so glad we did this! Not only has she loved it, but our other children have read them numerous times, also! I think they are one of the most fantastic book series for children! :) Beep, beep!!