Planning for a year of Magic School Bus

I have been wanting to do this since last year: design a complete year’s hands-on science curriculum based on Magic School Bus books and videos. My oldest kid is going into fifth grade. It’s now or never.

The science lessons for each topic are based on the 5-E method: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate. Engage is the hook, something to get their interest in the topic. Explore is a hands on activity, teacher led but learner centered. Explain is the “teaching” moment. Elaborate is when students apply what they have learned to more challenging activities, or design their own investigations. Evaluate is assessment time to see if the student has mastered the objectives of the lesson. In a classroom this would be a quiz or test, however in homeschool is usually a verbal assesment or project based.

Our science lessons will probably be three days a week, I am still hashing out details of our schedule, so obviously some days will have more than one lesson segment. This is an ongoing work in progress to add activities, but here is my framework for Magic School Bus Lesson Plans for the year (MS Excel). Our school year runs July to May, with one week off per month, so I tried to keep topic clustered to monthly units, but that was not always possible. We are starting school soon, so I am focusing on tweaking July’s lesson schedule and activities, and still need to list out all the supplies I will need for each week (basically, my shopping and library list). I will be using the Magic School Bus book that coordinates with each topic/video, but will also be grabbing books at the library for each topic for my kids to reading during their SSR time (silent sustained reading).IMG_7715.JPG

I found a treasure chest of activities for each book on Scholastic’s site of Magic School Bus teaching resources. There are activities for every video, which works nicely since I chose to use the videos as our engage activity for each topic. Scholastic also has printable KWL (know, want to know, learned) organizers that we will use with each topic. I printed out activities, and filed them into my lesson plan binder by unit, with individual weeks paper clipped together so I can easily flip to a particular week when I find an activity I want to add.IMG_7711IMG_7713.JPG

I have a copy of the lesson plan in the front, as a type of Table of Contents.IMG_7712

I am not limiting my lesson plans to the activities on Scholastic though. As a former science teacher, I have piles of books and activities for every possible topic. If lacking, a quick seach will yield a plethora of link to ideas, activities, lesson plans, and free printables. For example, I found great resources for my 4th and 5th graders on California Academy of Science’s lesson plan page. Here is a lesson on insects that I will be using with my kiddos, probably during the week we watch/read “Magic School Bus Gets Ants in its Pants”. I like it because not only does it explore the parts of an insect, but they create their own insect with adaptations based on the habitat and food source they select. These are great follow-up activities to the suggested activities I found on Scholastic’s site to make an ant farm and perform an experiment to see which types of food the ants prefer. I also like their game for complete and incomplete metamorphosis for the week we watch/read “Butterfly and the Bog Beast”, as my kids have hatched butterflies for the past two years, we are kind of past the life cycle of a butterfly activities.

There are so many possibilities it is very difficult to narrow down to just a few activities to do each week! However, in the land of worksheets-a-plenty, it is important to remember to look for hands-on activities, experiments and investigations so kiddos will ask and understand the “how and why”, not just answer the “what”. Science is more than memorizing new vocabulary, it’s making observations, designing experiments, and collecting data in order to understand systems and cycles, build models, and form explanations that can be justified. As Ms. Frizzle would say, “It’s time to ask questions, get messy, make mistakes!”


Fun cloud painting

This afternoon, we are mixing up shaving cream and white school glue to make clouds on blue cardstock. After reviewing types of clouds in our Children’s Weather Encyclopedia, we read Little Cloud by Eric Carle. The girls then mixed up their cloud paint, and shaped cloud pictures using plastic spoons and big paint brushes.

Easy to make, easy to do, and easy to clean up. When the pictures dry, they stay white and puffy. If, like us, you are running out of wall space to hang your cloud art, consider hanging the puffy pics on the ceiling.

This is a great time to also review the water cycle and where clouds come from. Watching the Magic School Bus episode on the water cycle, Wet All Over, is an easy way to review the how and why of water’s phase changes through the water cycle. You can also make a quick water cycle in a bag to help concrete the concept (works without the cup too, just mark the bag with a Sharpie, add a little water, seal and tape to a window). 

And then go paint more puffy white clouds.

School Day #137

IMG_5584Today is school day 137 of our first homeschool year. My pre-K daughter still has a little fever from the cold going through our house. My first grader is still coughing, but mainly over it. My poor second grader is coming down with it. And yet, we had school today.

We had calendar time and read about the history and traditions of St. Patrick’s Day, but took a break from practicing our Awana verses today, as there is no Awana this week due to spring break. We did our math assignment from Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching and spelling practice from Then, we took a break to paint our toenails green, read “That’s What Leprechauns Do” and make a leprechaun craft. We also played an estimation game with green jelly candies I found at Dollar General, that turned out to taste like toothpaste. This was the first day in history that all my children agreed with me to throw away the candy.

Today was our science day, so we finished our human body unit by reading about reproduction, growth and care of our bodies in DK’s “First Encyclopedia of the Human Body”. We colored, cut and pasted a uterus and ovaries from “My Body” onto our life sized body posters. Since we added a different body system every week, our posters are pretty impressive after all these weeks! We finished up playing a round of an older game I found used on ebay, the “Somebody Board Game”.

After lunch, my older girls wrote chapter two of their novels. We are using this great program I found for National Novel Writing November. It is taking longer than I thought it would though, so we are rushing to write the whole five chapters this week! The curriculum can be found here at NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is actually in November, but we started in January. I told you it took us longer than I expected…

We also did our grammar lesson from First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise, read poetry and a literature selection from Ambleside Online, and the girls did their read-aloud assignment.

Apart from the juicy coughing and growing pile of used tissues, it was a pretty average day for us. Next week is our week off for the month, part of our year round calendar schedule. This post includes a decent sampling of the types of curricula we use and the basic flow of our day, however as any homeschooler can tell you, every day is different!