KEVIN SPENCER BIOGRAPHY
Kevin Spencer is a Teaching Artist, Researcher, Speaker, Consultant, and Film Producer. He is also a world-renowned Illusionist with dozens of accolades to his credit. He and his wife, Cindy, were the recipients of the Merlin Award for International Magicians of the Year (2009) and six-time recipients of Performing Arts Entertainer of the Year. Most recently, the Milbourne Christopher Foundation honored them as Illusionists of the Year (2015).
Historically, artists have been at the forefront of social change. Spencer is a thought leader who believes strongly in the power of the arts to impact the realities in which we live, learn, work, and heal. From childhood to adolescence and continuing through emerging adulthood and senior living, the arts play an important role in our development and the quality of our lives. Spencer is an advocate of art across the lifespan, empowering people of all ages and abilities. He believes in creating inclusive communities where everyone experiences an authentic sense of belonging and no one – for any reason – is relegated to the margins.
Spencer is the founder of the HEALING OF MAGIC and HOCUS FOCUS programs and is widely considered the leading authority on the therapeutic use of magic tricks in special education and rehabilitation. When he is not touring the world with his illusion production, he is engaged in research and continuing education.
WHAT IS HOCUS FOCUS?
HOCUS FOCUS is a child-centered, activity-based program that combines education with imagination to help students develop and improve their abilities in a variety of important areas. Spencer’s interdisciplinary approach to designing the Hocus Focus program values a holistic philosophy so essential to effective educational experiences that are generalizable for all children, including those with disabilities. It transcends the confines of culture by its very nature of incorporating play, reaching beyond the boundaries of the U.S. educational system and influencing a global audience. Spencer has shared his pioneering ideas and research with educators on six of the seven continents.
ARTS & EDUCATION
In 2015, Spencer collaborated with Dr. Susan O’Rourke to design and validate an assessment instrument for educators to measure student growth through the arts in five dimensions of learning: cognitive, motor, creativity/adaptability, oral expression, and social skills. Hocus Focus Analytics is the capstone of that project and is the first assessment instrument developed to quantify learning through arts-integrated teaching methods.
Hocus Focus is based on an exciting new education framework called Phenomenon-Based Learning (PBL), a framework grounded in creativity and innovation. Hocus Focus is designed to use the student’s own curiosity as the driver for learning. Children and adolescents are intensely curious. The art of magic is an effective means of tapping into that natural curiosity. In PBL, magic tricks become both the phenomenon and the art form. When presented properly, it can be linked to important skills needed for student understanding resulting in student achievement and growth. Hocus Focus uses both teacher and peer instruction and contains elements of inquiry-based, problem-based, and project-based learning combined with hands-on, arts-integrated activities and responsive teaching.
Through the medium of dramatic arts, students will learn how to follow multi-step and complex directions and organize tasks and movements; write a script; tell a story; perform appropriately; and include creative movement in their presentations. These promote contexts in which the student would play an active role in learning by engaging their attention, memory, and motivation. Peer mentoring and collaboration combined with teacher-modeling would play a fundamental role in this project.
Here is a quick sampling of academic connections with Hocus Focus:
- Theatre Techniques
- Speaking and Listening
- Storytelling and Oral Expression
- Identifying Key Ideas and Details
- Following Multi-step and Complex Procedures
- Writing Informative/Explanatory Texts
- Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
- Production and Distribution of Writing
- Comprehension and collaboration
- Presentation of knowledge and ideas
- Vocabulary acquisition and use
Spencer holds a Certification in Autism Studies. His groundbreaking research on the educational benefits of integrating magic tricks into the classroom for all students, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Intellectual/Developmental Delays, has been published in the Journal of the International Association of Special Education and the Journal of the International Society for Teacher Education. His program, HOCUS FOCUS, has had an international impact on education. A feature article in INSIDE AUTISM magazine called Spencer “the kid whisperer” because of his keen ability to connect with children with ASD. He has presented research at numerous education conferences world-wide including DISES Conference (Tobago 2013 and Portugal 2014), Seale-Hayne (UK), the East Asian International Conference on Teacher Education Research (Hong Kong), the International Society for Teacher Education Seminar (Norway), the International Scientific Conference on Rehabilitation and Education (Belarus), and the International Association for Special Education Conference (Namibia and Vancouver).
HEALING OF MAGIC
He is also the founder of the HEALING OF MAGIC program and is widely considered the leading authority on the therapeutic use of magic tricks in physical and psychosocial rehabilitation. He is frequently engaged in research and continuing education workshops. His magic trick-based work has been featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, Journal of Hand Therapy, HEALTH magazine, TODAY in OT, and the Washington Post. Spencer has the Approved Provider Status of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and has been the Keynote Speaker at numerous state occupational therapy conferences as well as conducting breakout sessions and workshops around the world for therapists, psychologist, physicians, researchers, and rehabilitation specialists.
His latest project is a short documentary titled POWERFUL MEDICINE: SIMPLY MAGIC. It premiered in Braga, Portugal in July 2014 to an enthusiastic audience and is being screened at numerous international film festivals through 2015. It has already earned Best Short Documentary at several. The film is a journey of self-discovery and resilience told through the voices, faces, and hands of incredible individuals who struggle with some of life’s difficult challenges. Their stories are inspirational, motivating and life changing!
For his humanitarian endeavors, he was given the Harry Chapin Award for Contributions to Humanity.