November 23, 2023

#08-360: The Magic School Bus


Note: The best learning happens in an atmosphere of fun! And this program from the 1990s managed to offer up heavy doses of both.

Get Ready: Do you like science? Would you learn it better if it was presented in a fun, exciting way?

A few years ago, my wife's younger brother lived with us. Friends recommended educational television shows for him to watch, and the best of the ones we tried (better than when I was a kid!) was The Magic School Bus, an award-winning animated science series. In four seasons of 52 episodes, it covered topics from astronomy, biology, chemistry, climatology, ecology, engineering, geology, physics--and even dinosaurs!

The show is based in the class of a teacher named Miss Frizzle, who is actually a kind of witch (but a GOOD witch). Every week she loads up her students for a field trip in a dilapidated old bus which, as the title says, is magic, taking the kids to other times and places, including outer space and inside the human body. (It was based on a series of books of the same name.)

Each student has a distinct personality:

Arnold Perlstein: a seemingly timid Jewish American boy, he often says in difficult situations, "I knew I should have stayed home today." But he's brave enough when the situation calls for it.

Carlos Ramon: a Hispanic American who is the "class clown," always making jokes or puns about the situations they're in. (The kids often groan in unison, "CAAR-LOOS!")

Dorothy Ann Hudson: a bookworm who often looks up background on the episode's topic.

Keesha Franklin: an African American girl, level-headed and realistic. When things get tough she may say, "Let's get the facts!" 

Phoebe Terese: a French-Canadian girl who is sweet and caring toward her classmates. Not surprisingly, she is also an animal activist.

Ralphie Tennelli: an Italian American boy who is the class "jock." A bit of a daydreamer, he is nonetheless the de facto class leader, who often says when facing difficulties, "I think I'm gonna be sick."

Tim Wright: an African American boy who likes to draw or film the class's experiences. In tight situations he says, "We've been Frizzled!"

Wanda Li: a Chinese American tomboy who is very adventurous. She can be a bit bossy, admonishing the others, when necessary, "Come on, you weasily wimps!"

And of course we have to mention Liz, the class's pet chameleon who often--through mishaps--leads the students into an adventure. She has some human traits, but never speaks.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. bookworm
  2. chameleon
  3. de facto
  4. dilapidated
  5. in unison
  6. jock
  7. level-headed
  8. tomboy
  9. weasily
  10. wimps
  1. in fact, but not official
  2. all together
  3. a type of lizard
  4. weak people
  5. a masculine girl
  6. someone who loves to read
  7. clear thinking, practical
  8. dishonest
  9. an athlete
  10. old and worn out

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for November 23, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. f; 2. c; 3. a; 4. j; 5. b; 6. i; 7. g; 8. e; 9. h; 10. d