The Magic School Bus Goes Upstream

Field Trip Notes
Ralphie wants to catch salmon to serve at the annual school picnic, but he can't find any at his favorite fishing spot. Where could all the salmon have gone? The kids are soon 'Frizzled' inside a salmon-bus that has an uncontrollable urge to head upriver. 'Wait!' Ralphie cries. 'We'll be late for the picnic!' But the salmon-bus won't stop. Using its sense of taste and smell, it swims the long journey to a shallow freshwater stream miles away. Why has the Bus, which thinks it's a salmon, gone to all this trouble?
Find Your Home Stream

Going Hands-On

Time: 20 minutes
Group Size: 4-6

The Magic School Bus becomes a salmon looking for its tiny home stream. How? By knowing the scent and taste of home. Your kids discover that a homey smell can lead them, too.

What You Need
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • Range, hot plate, crock-pot, or electric fry pan
  • Pan with lid (for range or hot plate)
  • 1 tablespoon odorless cooking oil (optional)
  • Thin Cardboard (e.g., old manila folders)
  • Paper fasteners
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Crayons
  • Copies of JOURNEY HOME WHEEL page


Talk About It

Ask: What senses do you use to find your way? If you close your eyes, what other senses might tell you where you are? Could you find your way to a bakery by following your nose?

What To Do
  1. Heat cinnamon over low heat. Watch so it doesn’t burn. Heating in oil may release more scent.
  2. When heated to a strong fragrance, clamp a lid on the pan and hide it. Remove the lid after it’s hidden.
  3. Challenge a group to follow their noses to the hidden scent.
  4. Repeat for all groups. If the odor fades, heat new cinnamon. Sharpen the game by timing the groups to see which find the cinnamon fastest.
  5. While one group follows their noses, others can make a Journey Home Wheel (see activity sheet).


Next Stop
Assign teams to research migration routes of salmon, whales, monarch butterflies, Arctic terns, ducks, scarlet tanagers, and other migratory animals. Do any pass through your community? What dangers do they face? What is the payoff for the dangerous journey they make?
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