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'The Magic School Bus': A tribute

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Magic School Bus

Seatbelts, everyone! When I was in elementary school, I used to long for the days when we’d pause our typical classwork to watch some type of “educational” programming. (Thank you, PBS, for those breaks from learning my multiplication tables. Twelves were hard!) And easily my favorite of these educational shows — perhaps only second to Reading Rainbow — was The Magic School Bus. I never much cared for science in school, but cram basic science principles into a TV show and wrap them with a super catchy theme song sung by the one and only Little Richard? Sold!

One drawback of the show, however, was subsequently being disappointed by my yearly field trip to the zoo. Not once did I navigate a nostril, raft a river of lava, or get baked into a pie. All three of which were on my bucket list when I was 8. And don’t even get me started on the smelly, non-air conditioned public school bus that provided my transportation. I was clearly deprived as a child.

But digging through my old VHS tapes to relive the fun of “The Magic School Bus Plays Ball,” an episode from the show’s first season, brought back such fond memories. (Only later did I realize the entire episode is on YouTube, natch.) The class visits the pages of Dorothy Ann’s physics book and attempts to play baseball  — sans friction. Nearly 20 years, the episode still holds up. I still laughed at Carlos’ corny puns and Arnold’s “something tells me I should have stayed home today” catchphrase.

But my favorite thing about The Magic School Bus was Ms. Frizzle. For a short while, I really wanted to be a teacher just like her — a wild woman who wore dresses themed to each episode and whose earrings lit up right before she took the class on an adventure. Oh, and she also had the best anthropomorphic sidekick, Liz the lizard. Lily Tomlin, who won a Daytime Emmy for her work on the show, provided the voice for The Frizz and she was easily the coolest teacher ever. My teaching aspirations quickly dissipated once I realized I’d have to actually teach, but Ms. Frizzle still remains one of my favorite TV teachers of all time. I hope that she’s still instructing children on classroom televisions everywhere.

Did you watch The Magic School Bus? What field trip do you remember the most?

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