Monday, July 29, 2013

Magic Making

Okay...I get the concept behind The Magic School Bus series.  Presenting the world of science to kids in a fun-filled, cartoonish landscape.  Place a wacky, Willy-Wonka-like teacher and skeptical wise-cracking students and you get The Magic School Bus.  

I hate to even post this because there are some teacher-types and other adults who may think it's nearly sacrilege. I can just hear it now.  "You messed with Clifford and now...The Magic School Bus?  Nobody messes with The Magic School Bus."  People, people, people!  Let's be civilized here.  I speak as someone who has spent time reading these series in my time working in child care.  I don't hate Clifford or The Magic School Bus...really.  I mean, I live in the town where Tony the Tiger comes from and I don't hate him.   However, when it comes to The Magic School Bus, there are things to keep in mind:

  • Each page of all these books are filled with so much information and busyness, it can take over 30 minutes to read through it all, especially if you're someone who likes to read books to children with enthusiasm.  
  • Much of it goes right over the heads of preschoolers. 
  • I have yet to see elementary school-age children's interest be held by these books.  This is true even for the animated series. (Yes, there may be some quirky kids where it's not always true.  I would've been one of those quirky kids.) I wonder if it's because of the children's entertainment industry giants competing for the interest of kids.
  • Ultimately, I believe adults love The Magic School Bus more than kids because we think it's good for the youngsters.  It's like getting them to like (not just to eat, but actually like) cereal that is nutritious and not the stuff where sugar is the main ingredient.  (Hey, I live in the Cereal City and I smell that sugary stuff in the air. Which I, our main industry doesn't need to pack up and leave because they were insulted by me or anything.)  That or Scholastics really loves to push these books like some children's literature cartel.  (Just teasing, here.  Scholastics is a great company.  Really.)
However, they are packed with information that elementary-aged children can certainly learn from.  Maybe these stories are better served in a more strategic fashion.  Someone who has a certain amount of training, such as...a professional teacher.  Who knows?  There may even be a guide or a lesson book that gives ideas how best to use The Magic School Bus and incorporate it into a science curriculum.  Anyone else who has an idea, I would love to hear it.

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