The Magic School Bus Makes a Rainbow

Field Trip Notes
The class finds Ms. Frizzle inside her closet... playing a pinball machine! But it's no ordinary pinball machine - this game is played with light pulses instead of steel balls, and the goal is to use the pulses to light up the six colors of the rainbow! To help Ms. Frizzle win, the kids shrink and go inside the game. With time and the light pulses running out, the kids must discover the secret of what gives things their color - before the principal, Mr. Ruhle, discovers them inside the pinball machine!
Color Mixer

Going Hands-On

Time: 30 minutes
Group Size: 5

While playing light-beam pinball, The Magic School But kids discover that green light bounces off a green shamrock and into their eyes, so they see green. Here, your students spin separate colors into a new color.

What You Need

  • Color wheel pattern
  • Thin cardboard (e.g., used manila folder)
  • Paste or glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Long pencil with eraser
  • Color markers or crayons
  • Modeling clay or rubber bands (optional)
  • Copies of COLOR MIXER page
Talk About It

Record kids’ ideas: Where does color come from? (the rainbow colors contained in “white” light) Why are apples red and blueberries blue? (The red light in light is reflected off the apple and into our eyes. The same goes for the blue.) What color might you get if you mixed red and blue light together?

What To Do
  1. Pass out copies of the activity page and cardboard. Help kids follow directions to paste, cut out, and poke holes in the wheel pattern.
  2. Follow coloring directions for the wheels.
  3. Have students poke their pencils through the hole and spin the wheels on a smooth surface. Try the eraser end for easier spinning.
  4. Before each spin, have kids predict what color(s) they will see as the wheel spins. (Red, green, and blue or red, yellow, and blue combinations produce grayish white. Our eyes and brain cannot separate the spinning colors, so they look whitish. Likewise, “white” light is all the rainbow colors entering our eyes together.)

Next Stop
Separate white light into a rainbow by placing a glass of water on the edge of a window sill. Move the glass around until you see the rainbow. Catch the rainbow on white paper. Ask: How many colors do you see? Can you change the order of the colors?
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