Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Power of a Child

I just finished a week of performing "Work Smarter" in San Antonio, Texas, and I'm looking forward to getting back home to my family. But I have been really excited this week as I perform this show.

I've always love the concept, but this week the real power in this show was revealed to me through the children of North East ISD in San Antonio.

As a magician, I am used to performing feats that children find amazing. But this week I did a series of shows that teach science using hands-on demonstrations. So we explore the six simple machines (wheel and axle, pulley, incline plane, wedge, lever, and screw).

It was quite inspiring to me to witness first hand just how powerful hands-on education can be for today's youth. I am tempted to say "In spite of all the constant stimulation they experience from video and audio feeds" but after today I think that the truth is, they respond to this sort of educational process BECAUSE of all the constant video and audio stimulation they experience.

Today's children are screaming for real-world experience. They crave to SEE a chrystalis transform into a butterfly, not just READ about it. They want to SEE a 5 lb. weight lift a 50 lb. bucket of rocks using a lever, they don't want to watch a video about it. They want to get a scale and MEASURE the effort it takes to drag a 50 lb. bucket of rocks across the floor and then compare that to measurements they took to see what it took to pull the same bucket in a wagon.

Do wheels really reduce friction? If so, by how much? What other factors are involved? These are no longer abstractions in the minds of these children. These are REAL world questions that they can answer in a real world way.

So today, when I had two first graders up on stage helping me to split a 2X4 using a wedge and a 3 pound mallet, when the pieces finally separated and the kids both grabbed one half of the piece of lumber, it had all the teachers grinning widely and me beaming with pride as the kids held their respective piece of lumber triumphantly over their heads as their classmates cheered and clapped for them, all with no provocation other than the excitement of personal accomplishment.

It was quite a day for me.

It was like a magic show...with no magic. Well, no magic TRICKS. I guess there was plenty of REAL magic!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Reading to a DOG?!

Some weird ideas just work.

Hindsight is 20/20 but if you are honest with yourself you have to look at some really good ideas and think "That's crazy!"

Case in point: Reading to dogs. I heard about this idea about a year or two ago and saw a program in a public library this summer. Who would have thought that having reluctant readers read to dogs would actually inspire them to WANT to read more?

I mean, I've seen the results and I can assure you that it works. And in hind sight I can even speculate as to why it is so effective (it gives purpose to the reading without fear of embarrassment) , but I have to admit that if someone asked me if I thought the idea might work I'm afraid I would have to liken it to reading to a cricket or reading to a brick wall.

Why does reading to a dog work so well?

Who cares, really? It works for some crazy reason and to me, that's about all that matters.