The Friz Goes Green: The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge by Joanna Cole
When Ms. Frizzle (a.k.a "The Friz") turns up at school with a big old book called Our Wonderful World, the kids are slightly intrigued when she tells them it was her book when she was their age. The idea of their teacher as little nine-year-old Valerie Frizzle catches their interest, but when she opens her book, they see the usual ho-hum geography layouts--snow-covered mountains, waterfalls, glacier fields--good to use to paint the scenery for their grade's play on energy, but nothing as exciting as their teacher's usual startling openers.
But then, Ms. Frizzle comes out with one of her famous portentous remarks:
"LET'S GET REALLY UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION!" SHE SAYS
"I HATE IT WHEN SHE SAYS STUFF LIKE THAT," ARNOLD GROANS.
And the class is off on one of their fabulous field trips, which not surprisingly revisits some of the scenes shown in Ms. Frizzle's childhood book. Except--are they really the same? Flying over the Arctic Ocean, Dorothy Ann notices something.
Dorothy Ann opened Ms. Frizzle's old book. The pictures showed ice everywhere.
There was still plenty of ice in the Arctic, but a lot had melted, and more was melting all the time.
And retracing all the sections in Our Wonderful World shows the same remarkable changes. The permafrost on the northern steppes is turning the region into a muddy mess; former farmland looks like a desert from the air, and rising oceans are causing their inhabitants to move away from the coast. The kids are struck by the difference in HOW IT LOOKED THEN and HOW IT LOOKS NOW. What happened?
Ms. Frizzle explains that although there are lots of variations in weather from day to day and year to year, the climate has shown steady changes since her childhood, with warming temperatures in the polar regions and in the oceans which have had remarkable effects all over the globe. As the students learn about the changes in climate caused by greenhouse gases--water, carbon dioxide and methane, for example--they begin to have an appreciation of the uses of renewable, non-polluting means of energy production such as solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, and nuclear. Back in the classroom the kids have a new appreciation of what they can do to conserve, right down to using energy strips to take their electronics off the grid when not in use. The class and The Friz renew their pledge together.
"I'M GOING GREEN! THEY PROCLAIM.
"I'VE ALWAYS BEEN GREEN," NOTES LIZ (THE LIZARD.)
The winning team of author Joanna Cole and illustrator Bruce Degen have carried off one of their most ambitious science expeditions in their latest, The Magic School Bus And The Climate Challenge (Scholastic, 2010). Deftly working in early elementary curriculum concepts and vocabulary, the all-pro co-creators provide plenty of fun in the form of humorous asides from the students and thrilling maneuvers from bush pilot Frizzle at the throttle as they cover some new territory in science education. This one should be a staple of environmental education, Earth Day units, weather and climate study, and a fine motivator for school projects as well as big changes at home.