The Magic School Bus Gets Programmed

Field Trip Notes
Ms. Frizzle's class arrives early to open the school for Mr. Ruhle. But there's so much to do! 'There must be a way of doing all these chores without actually doing them,' says Carlos. The school handyman, Mr. McClean, is in total agreement. Enter Mr. Ruhle's new computer! Then enter Mikey, Carlos's whiz-kid brother, who programs the computer to do all the chores. But when Ms. Frizzle shrinks Mikey and sends him inside the computer for a guided tour, everything goes crazy. And the only person who can fix the problem is Mikey - who is somewhere between the CPU and the hard drive!
I Compute

Going Hands-On

Time: 40 minutes
Group Size: 4

One tiny mistake in Mikey's computer program has the school's system in an uproar. Your kids learn that computer tasks must be broken into small parts.

What You Need

For Each Student


Talk About It

Ask: What do computers do? How are computers like other machines? How are they different?

What To Do
  1. Ask: What tells a computer what to do? (a program in a computer language) What is a program? (a set of step-by-step instructions to accomplish a task) Can you follow a program?
  2. Space groups in separate squares, with four pencils in the center of the square.
  3. Have kids act out the Pencil Pass Program instructions. Are more instructions needed for Bit #1 and Bit #2? Are there “bugs” - mistakes? If so, challenge kids to fix them.
  4. Have groups compete the program to pass out pencils. Let them present the programs they write. Ask: How many ways did we find to accomplish the same task?

Next Stop
Examine a computer. Unplug it from the wall. Where do the cables go? Unscrew and remove the cover. Find - don’t touch - the floppy drive, hard drive, motherboard, CPU, other components. CAUTION! Never open a monitor. It stores shocking voltage.
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