There are field trips -- and there are field trips. Vaulting yesteryear's nature walks and museum visits into the not-quite-real world of 21st-century educational strategies, one of today's most popular teachers is an avid scientist, an expert on animals and insects who at the drop of a hat can name the world's longest-lived bug (the wood-boring beetle), the most poisonous spider (the brown recluse), and the reason polar bears don't feel the cold (it's all about body oils).The heroine of a series of picture books created by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen, Ms. Frizzle takes her class aboard the bright yellow "Magic School Bus" -- not to museums but to the center of the Earth, to outer space, to the depths of the human anatomy, and beyond. Published by Scholastic, the books have been so popular that in 1994 they became the basis for an animated TV series, which soon became the number-one show in its time slot for kids under eleven.Another part of the franchise is videos, which the Lawrence Hall of Science (UC Berkeley) screens in its auditorium on one Saturday every month. On March 15, LHS's Magic School Bus Video Festival will include seven full-length videos, starting at 10:30 a.m.Some of Ms. Frizzle's millions of young fans might not realize that the wild-haired teacher with her pet tarantula named Tequila is a work of fiction. And maybe you don't want to tell them. For more information, call 510-642-5132. -- Anneli Rufus
The Riding o' the Rails
What's four feet tall and wears green? Well, it could be a leprechaun, or it could be your five-year-old daughter, and today the Oakland Zoo doesn't care which. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., kids 12 and younger, wearing anything green at all, get a free ride on the Zoo's CP Huntington steam engine, a miniature replica of a real, Civil War-era model. It fits up to 70 passengers (adults, too), and the ride's big loop offers a great view of not just the zoo, but the bay as well.
The zoo is located in massive Knowland Park, 9777 Golf Links Rd., home to more than four hundred native and exotic animals living in naturalistic environments. $3.50 to $7.50 (children under two get in free). 510-632-9525. -- Stefanie Kalem
The Berkeley Ballet Theater sponsors a pre-professional Youth Company in which qualified young dancers can perform professional-level repertoire and work with guest choreographers while honing their dance skills. Those skills are evidently well developed, because the BBT's Youth Company has been invited to dance at the Tanzsommer Festival in Innsbrück and Vienna, Austria this June. As a warm-up for that engagement and also to give the students a chance to perform ballet and modern choreography they have created for themselves, the Youth Company is putting on a performance Sunday, March 16, 2 p.m., at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave., Berkeley. Tickets are $10, kids under 14 $5. Auditions are held at the beginning of every school year. To learn more: www.berkeleyballet.org -- Kelly Vance
Culture Spy - April 20, 9:52 AM
Culture Spy - April 13, 12:18 PM