There’s a lot of talk of magic in education. Usually the word is used as a metaphor for the spirit of a particular school, but when I talk about magical education I mean it literally, because as well as being an educator, I am a magician. Magic is a great hobby and wonderful entertainment, but it also has huge utility in 21st century education. Here are some of the ways magic can be used educationally.
Sleight of hand tricks like a basic coin vanish teach fine motor skills, and the co-ordination of movement builds cross-lateral connections in the brain. Once children have mastered the trick itself, they can reinforce these connections by building in an accompanying patter. Talking while performing encourages linguistic thinking and builds social skills – tricks are always more successful if you can establish a rapport with your audience, not least because it makes the misdirection so much more effective. The cups and balls involve a similar blend of dexterity, cross-lateral thinking and communication. Both tricks can be performed with everyday objects and are great starter tricks for children in Key Stage 1.
Magic can work wonders with a child’s confidence. Take a simple but reliable self-working trick like Harry Barron’s classic “The Kick”. It’s easy to learn, it requires no previous skill or knowledge and it’s great with any audience. The thrill a child gets from performing it successful can have a transformative effect. Children in Key Stage 2 can usually crack it pretty easily.
Sequencing is really important for self-working tricks. One of my favourites is Aldo Colombini’s “Contact Colours”. It’s quite a complex sequence to learn, which means you have to practice. The pay-off you get from performing it successful makes the effort worthwhile.
Memory is important too. When I am performing I might have four decks of cards in my pockets, all set up for different tricks. They all look identical, but if I try to do a particular trick with the wrong one, I will be in trouble pretty quickly. Of course sometimes I will do just that, at which point resilience and quick thinking come into play. The great Tommy Cooper made a whole career out of comedy magic after he noticed that his failed tricks got more of a laugh than his successful ones.
The entertainment of magic lies in the willing participation of the audience in a deception, and we can use that to help keep our children safe. In the digital world, deception is all around. If children understand how easy it is to fish for information, they will protect it much more carefully. In my Key Stage 3 sessions I demonstrate to children just how easily they can be deceived if they let their guard down. It’s a powerful message that teaches them to challenge what they are told and to spot the signs of deceit.
To enquire about a school show or a private lesson, or just to talk tricks, please contact me.