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Celebrating Ms. Frizzle: PBS’ Queen Of STEM, Feminist Icon

by Francesca Volpe



Seat belts everyone! Many memes are dedicated to the ecstacy we felt in school when our teacher wheeled in this:

Courtesy of Michael Coghlan via Flickr e1b27Courtesy of Michael Coghlan via Flickr

Ohh that was exciting. It offered us students a change of pace from the usual routine and it gave our teacher a much-needed break. A win-win. We didn’t care what the subject matter was, just as long as it came in the form of a VHS.

That is until, one of those tapes happened to be The Magic School Bus. High off of mischievous elation, our class couldn’t believe we were being allowed to watch cartoons during school hours! Once we calmed down, our teacher informed us that entertainment and education can co-exist in the form of a cartoon. The franchise began as a book series after all. 


Centered on the antics of a fictional elementary science teacher, her class and a school bus, with the power to shapeshift and time travel, the show helped viewers find the magic in STEM education. I loved the The Magic School Bus as a kid and I’ve found renewed appreciation for the series as an adult. Especially when pertaining to Ms. Frizzle, the iconic educator in the driver’s seat. 


Ms. Frizzle was a force to be reckoned with and here are some of the reasons why we love her.


She knows learning and fun aren’t mutually exclusive.
Whenever a student has a question, the Frizz declares “To the bus!” Valerie Frizzle is always ready for an adventure. The Frizz knows that learning can take place outside the classroom. What makes a rainbow? “To the bus!” Wait, sounds make waves? “To the bus!” WHY IS MY CAPS LOCK KEY STUCK? “TO THE BUS!”



She’s a STEM Queen


Speaking of the titular Magic School Bus, Ms. Frizzle was pretty damn tech savvy. No scientific process was off limits to her exploration. Some would argue that The Magic School Bus was the original Pimp My Ride. To understand her genius I must quote the show’s catchy theme song: Cruisin’ on down mainstreet you’re relaxed and feelin’ good, next thing that you know you’re seein’ an octopus in the neighborhood? She programmed that thing to surf on a soundwave, swing through the stars, take a left at your intestine and then your second right at mars, navigate a nostril, spank a planton too, raft a river of lava, or maybe get baked into a pie. 


She’s a champion for hands-on learning.

Whenever something goes awry during one of their field trips, Ms. Frizzle offers guidance, but will she solve their problems? With The Frizz? No way! Her positive reinforcement will always encourage her students to “take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

via GIPHY 

She has killer style and uses her fashion sense as a learning tool.

 S3 E2 The Magic School Bus Spins a Web 3cfabS3 E7 The Magic School Bus Makes a Rainbow 72ffbS3 E6 The Magic School Bus Shows and Tells bad0c

Some people dress for the job they want. Some people dress for the weather app. Ms. Frizzle dresses for her lesson plans/field trips. She coordinates the theme of each outfit with the topic of the episode. Ms. Frizzle knows fashion doesn’t lessen intelligence. On the contrary it can enhance it! 

She’s Voiced by Lily Tomlin!

via GIPHY 

The operatic voice trilling, “Seat belts everyone!,” belongs to superstar comedian, queer icon and proud feminist Lily Tomlin, making the character even more appealing. 

She’s not afraid of anything.

Drive a vehicle through a child’s bloodstream? Easy.

 magic school bus inside ralphie d4bbf 


Explore the depths of space? Not a problem.



Go face to face with a spider? All in a day’s work. 


Her marital status isn’t a point of relevancy.

Ms. Frizzle’s unattachment to any romantic partner (that we know of) let’s the viewer know that she’s got her own thing going. She’s too dedicated to the advancement of science and education to spill the tea on her personal life. The lack of marital commitment also contributes to her sexual ambiguity, allowing viewers some digression from common heteronormative narratives. 

Images courtesy of PBS / Scholastic Entertainment  

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