The Magic School Bus” was an immensely popular cartoon in the 1990s that blended entertainment and learning. The show was recently revived for Netflix and features an all-new cast of characters via Fiona Felicity Frizzle, the original Ms. Frizzle’s sister, and has since won several awards for excellence.

“The Magic School Bus” features a class of kids going on wild adventures and learning lots of interesting facts. Hence, it is befitting that the series has spawned a series of science kits, games, and even a monthly subscription. For more than ten years Esther Novis has worked with the Scholastic to create a line of educational science-related products via her company called The Young Scientists Club.

To date, they have developed dozens of kits, sets, and labs that enable kids to learn about science via growing crystals, studying germs, monitoring the weather, and much more.

Esther wanted to ensure that all products are interactive and fun, in addition to being educational. Hence, in the set that teaches kids how to grow salt and sugar crystals, they can make rock candy, artwork, a crystal star, and more. The weather set is also highly interactive and provides children with tools to monitor the wind, make clouds in a bottle, build a weather station, create a rainbow, create a compass, and much more. The instructions are highly detailed and easy to follow.

Esther Novis recently discussed working with “The Magic School Bus” brand, inventing science kits, and the value of Entertainment-Education via an exclusive interview on July 20, 2018

Science, shows, and ideas for kits

Meagan Meehan (MM): Have you always been a fan of science and how did that influence you founding of your company?

Esther Novis (EN): Absolutely. I was a biology major in college and went to medical school for 1.5 years before I decided that I needed to switch careers. I pursued my passion for teaching and taught at an inner-city school in Chicago before teaching at Phillips Academy Andover. Due to my husband's job, we moved, and once I had children, I was looking for educational activities to get them interested in the sciences.

I started a local science camp which led to our first Young Scientists Club subscription program about twenty years ago.

MM: How did you come to work with “The Magic School Bus” and what most appeals to you about the show?

EN: Scholastic had reached out to me at Toy Fair as they were looking for a company that could develop science kits using The Magic School Bus brand. It was a great fit. I had used the videos at camp as well as for my kids, so I was very familiar with the show. I have always liked the fact that it was a female science teacher making science fun for children.

MM: How do you select the themes of the kits you create and how do you select the projects to include?

EN: I come up with the ideas for the kits often from seeing something in a museum, our summer camps, and traveling to other places.

For example, I am currently working on an Ocean related kit which was inspired by the fact that I live on an island and I know that children love everything ocean related and at the same time I can include messages as to how important it is to keep our oceans clean. All our kits are tested in our summer camps before they go into production so often the children will decide which experiments and activities are included in the kit.

Favorite projects, creations, awards, and the future

MM: Have you any favorite kits or projects and what do you most enjoy about working with “The Magic School Bus”?

EN: We are currently updating all our packaging so that it matches the new NETFLIX streamed shows. This has been very exciting for TYSC as we now get to launch new packaging with a completely fresh look and storyline.

I don't think I have any favorite kits in the series. It is always great to see the kids in camps use them and see their excitement at all the different projects. I like to expose them to topics that they would ordinarily not pick themselves to do.

MM: You have won awards for your creations, so what does it feel like to get recognized for your Inventions?

EN: The awards are of course a great validation for all the hard work that goes into the creation of each kit, but the best rewards are the emails from the parents thanking us for creating our products and the smiling faces of the kids coming to our annual summer camps.

MM: What are your biggest hopes for the future of your partnership with “The Magic School Bus” and have you any other licenses?

EN: I am looking forward to our big launch this year of our new packaging of all our “Magic School Bus” kits and games, and with the NETFLIX show becoming very popular and new shows already being added, I am looking forward to reaching a whole new generation of children. In addition to “The Magic School Bus,” we also license “Clifford the Big Red Dog.” This license is for younger children, and we have developed a series for ages 3-8 using Clifford.

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