Teaching Physical Science With Children’s Literature: The Magic School Bus Plays Ball

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The Magic School Bus Plays Ball ( A Books About Forces), written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Art Ruiz and Bruce Degan, uses a field trip to explain forces.

While the rest of the students are busy playing a baseball game, Dorothy Ann is reading a book about physics.  While she tries to make the others see how physics relates to the game of baseball Ralphie decides to use her book as home plate instead of reading it.  Then Ms. Frizzle shows up to take the students on a impromptu field trip to a baseball game inside Dorothy Ann’s physics book! Unlike their previous game this is a world without friction. Without friction, playing baseball is nearly impossible. Like when Wanda tries to pitch the ball, the force she uses to push the ball forward pushes her back to 2nd base.  Finally, Ms. Frizzle calls the game and everyone gets back to the bus.  However, while they were playing the book closed on top of the school bus and now they’re trapped.  To get them out, Dorothy Ann comes up with the idea of using the letter in the book to create a wedge to hold the pages up and allows them to leave the physics book and come back to the real world.

Curriculum Connections
The Magic School Bus Plays Ball is a great book to use as either an introduction to the idea of force or as part of an ongoing lesson.  The baseball game in the world without friction describes how one’s movements are impacted by the force of friction (Va SOL 4.2a,b,&c)  The building of the wedge at the end of the book is a good example of a type of simple machine (VA SoL 3.2b).

Additional Resources

  • This website is a great interactive tool that lets students experiments with forces in action.
  • A lesson plan for 4th grade that experiments with mass and friction and their efforts on speed and motion.
  • This website has different activities and worksheets to use.  I recommend the Push or Pull pdf and the Pushes and Pulls Vocabulary Flashcards.
  • The last page of the book also gives 2 different experiments to be used in the classroom or at home.

Book: The Magic School Bus Plays Ball ( A Books About Forces)
Author: Joanna Cole
Illustrators: Art Ruiz and Bruce Degan
Publisher:
Scholastic Paperbacks
Publication Date: 1998
Pages:  32 pages
Grade Range: 2-4
ISBN-10:
0590922408