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The premise of The Magic School Bus centers on Ms. Frizzle and her class of children embarking on adventures on a magical bus that can go through space, explore the human body, and even time travel. When trailblazing these new situations, mishaps occur, and the kids have to figure out how to solve the problem under the watchful eye of the ever-patient and exuberant Ms. Frizzle.
First airing on PBS in 1994, The Magic School bus was created by Scholastic Entertainment and is notable for being one of the highest-rated programs among school-age children during that time. In 2017 the series was reprised and picked up by Netflix. The Magic School bus will always hold a special place in my heart for setting off my interests in science and Ms. Frizzle’s famous quote:” Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!” is a lifelong lesson to consider.
Taking chances can be a frightening thought. As someone who methodically plans to prevent surprises or has back up plans just in case something goes awry, there are times where I’ve had to take a chance, risk, and hope for the best. Understanding that I will never be 100% prepared is uncomfortable, yet through that unease and willingness to push past that has granted me tremendous opportunities. On one episode of The Magic School bus, the class goes into space, and the character “Arnold” takes off his space helmet and freezes. After he’s taken back to the bus, he’s revived and learns about the vacuum of space. Of course, there is a bit of suspension of belief because no human would be able to survive in space without a suit yet, he took that somewhat misguided chance and learned from that experience.
Making mistakes is a part of life, and frequently we can be critical of ourselves and others for making them, but it’s essential to learn from an encounter rather than criticize someone in a plethora of cases. With children, I think it’s especially vital not to be so critical, because it can zap a child’s motivation if they try something, make a mistake and get yelled as a result. On the Magic School bus, Ms. Frizzle never got frustrated with her class just because they didn’t know something or made a mistake. She would encourage them to look for a solution collaboratively with other students. Making a mistake isn’t the worst thing in the world if you are trying to find a solution.
When I thought about the “get messy” quote from Ms. Frizzle, I thought it applied to just getting dirty while performing science experiments, and while it does apply to that, I believe it has a greater meaning. I’ve been in situations where a drink was spilled on me or when despite the best planning in the world, things still aren’t going my way. In those moments, it’s important to say, there are things that I can change and those that I can’t, and tomorrow will be a better one.
“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” Even all of these years later, I still can vividly look back at childhood educational television and be grateful that PBS provided that free service. I think the media does make an impact on early development, and as a child ages into adulthood, they, like myself, will look at media they grew up with fondly. If you have a chance to watch the original The Magic School bus or the Netflix reboot, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.