Kid Tested – Uncle Approved: “The Magic School Bus” series (1994)


The_Magic_School_Bus_title_creditFirst published in The Holyoke Enterprise December 24, 2015

“The Magic School Bus” book series was one of my absolute favorites growing up. They were able to perfectly capture the mystery and wonder of science in such a way that it was both fun and exciting to learn. I hated science in school and did rather poorly in it, and yet I’m fascinated by the natural world, with space and NASA, and follow on Facebook. I think that is at least in part do to “The Magic School Bus”.

Ms. Frizzle is an elementary school teacher who takes her class on “field trips” for various different scientific explorations, namely to learn about digestion, how colds and bacteria develop in the body, and the solar system. Each one of these field trips is taken on their appropriately named magic school bus that can shrink down to microscopic size, transform into a submarine, or a rocket ship to the outer reaches of known space. All the while (and sometimes more heavy-handed than other times) teaching us about the various aspects of each adventure.

The students ask questions along the way to glean even more information from Ms. Frizzle and each one has their own defining trait: e.g.: Arnold hates field trips and is the Debbie Downer of the class, Carlos loves a bad pun, and Phoebe won’t can it about how things worked in her “old school”. And they do a pretty great job of explaining the science without dumbing-it down too much or sugar-coating anything. The digestion episode in particular was surprising how…far they took the show, if you get my drift, but then changed gears just in time to not be unsettling.

I’d warn against watching too many in a row as the characters can get repetitive and insufferable (Arnold says “I knew I should have stayed home today” in every. Single. Episode), but the 13 available on Netflix are otherwise very easy to get through. And Ms. Frizzle is voiced by Lily Tomlin, which was a surprise to me! She also won a daytime Emmy for her role.

*UPDATE: Netflix has announced a reboot of the series to premiere in 2016!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Snack Packs

Lincoln L. Hayes is a former writer and columnist of the Holyoke Enterprise. He now lives in Vermont where he continues to pursue an acting and filmmaking career.

Follow him on Instagram @LincolnLHayes.

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