Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: The Magic School Bus and the Science Fair Expedition

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The Magic School Bus series, written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen’s, has been helping children learn about different spheres of education curriculum for years. This specific book, focusing on a science fair expedition, gives the students in wacky, Ms. Frizzle’s class different ideas for science fair project topics by studying the scientific method and famous scientists throughout the ages.

This colorful and wild story, about a teacher who takes her students on crazy adventures, describes science as asking questions and testing ideas, as explored by studying and “interacting” with different, famous scientists throughout history. The students meet and learn about, through easily understood language conversations, the specific achievements and contributions of such scientists as Galileo, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein, and how they came to make such discoveries using the scientific process. By using specific famous examples, and relating them to the scientific method and scientific process skills, the students in the class were able to learn about scientific concepts, questions, and discoveries. The students begin their journey in a science museum exploring different topics for a science fair project and continue by traveling through the ages, meeting different scientific characters and finding out how and why they made their discoveries. Each page of the story offers side-information that is helpful for the students. For example, when the students meet and talk with Galileo, side assignments are shown, describing how Galileo was able to make his discoveries in relation to the basic ideas about science and the scientific method:

‘How Scientists Work’ by Keesha.

They observe nature (Galileo looked at Jupiter).

They gather evidence (Galileo saw that Jupiter moved and it had moons).

They use logical thinking (Galileo connected the facts he had learned).

The pages of this book are colorful and filled with illustrations that help students understand basic science concepts. Aside from the main storyline of the book, conversations and interactions between characters are offered which help students understand facts and ideas in a more simple dialogue. The “Gallery of Scientists” provides the basic premise of the book; teaching students that science is all about asking questions and testing ideas.

 Curriculum Connections
This book is great for helping students understand the basic definitions of science and the scientific method, through the exploration of specific case studies and biographies of famous scientists. The students will learn to plan experiments, formulating hypothesis and drawing conclusions (SOL 3.1 (c)(j)), as well as making observations and predictions, based on cause-and-effect relationships (SOL 4.1 (a)(b))  This book is also an important resource for students to find ideas for science projects and research topics.

Additional Resources

  • This quiz provides an interactive assessment to test children’s knowledge about the scientific method. The quiz compiles 10 different questions about the scientific method, with correct answers and detailed explanations given for each question.
  • This lesson plan is directed for grades 5-8, yet can be modified to fit younger grade levels. The lesson plan aims to teach students about the scientific method and different processes in science. Students will use their imaginations and creativity to role play the different parts to many of science’s life processes, using the specific steps of the scientific method, and then watch as other students in the class “perform” their specific process.
  • This activity/worksheet could be used as a single lesson, or as an ongoing research project/ book report for students learning about a specific scientist. The template provided helps children complete a “Bio of a Famous Scientist.” The students will choose a scientist and learn biographical information, such as why they were famous, how they made the world a better place, and a word to sum up the specific scientist.
  • This game is an interactive matching game. Students will match each square term of the scientific method with it’s correct definition.

Book: The Magic School Bus and the Science Fair Expedition
Author: Joanna Cole
Illustrator: Bruce Degen
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 48
Grade Range: 2-4
ISBN: 0-590-10824-7