It’s hard to believe it’s already November and the holidays are just around the corner. I have so much for which to be thankful – an incredible wife, great family, supportive friends, amazing staff, and the privilege of working in the performing arts. I wake up each morning to new opportunities and possibilities.
October was filled with such moments. The month started by connecting with some inspiring individuals from the Key Training Center in Florida. You can see the “smile of success” on the face of this guy who performed his first magic trick – priceless! You can check out all the pictures on FaceBook.
I’ve just finished reading a book titled CREATING INNOVATORS for some of my arts and education research. The author stresses the importance of allowing children to play in order to find their passion and discover their purpose in life. It reinforced some of the things I read in an interview with Thomas Sudhof, this year’s Nobel Price winner for Medicine and Physiology. He said he owes his powers of analysis and concentration to his bassoon teacher – a true testament to the power of the arts!
This month I also joined Susan O’Rourke (Chair of Special Education and Coordinator of Instructional Technology Certification at Carlow University) in the launch of a pilot project with Carnegie Mellon University, Carlow University, and the Propel Charter School in Braddock, PA. We are integrating magic tricks into STEM curriculum to help at-risk advanced placement high school students discover math and physics concepts in a visual, hands-on way. Hopefully, we an get Congress to recognize the importance of the arts in education leading to a change from STEM to STEAM by including “arts” in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Creativity is a habit. The problem is that schools today sometimes treat it as a bad habit. And like any habit, creativity can either be encouraged or discouraged. But when we allow students to learn creatively, we remove the stressors of “being right” and give them permission to take risks and make mistakes. And through those mistakes, they develop self-determination, flexibility, adaptability, critical thinking, and problem solving abilities. Creative problem solving comes from being engaged in what you are doing. Teaching magic tricks to students – including those with disabilities – can do all of these things.
I started my residency in Ocala with two performances and several workshops. It was a great experience with many memorable moments. It was my first time working at the Dassance Fine Arts Center at the College of Central Florida. The director wrote,
“Kevin and Cindy Spencer’s visit to Ocala, Florida for two Theatre of Illusion shows and residency was much anticipated. The shows on Sunday and Monday in Marion and Citrus County wowed audiences with their amazing illusions. The visits to Hillcrest Public School for Exceptional Children and two Key Training Centers in Citrus County were definitely the highlight of their visit. To see the participant’s faces light up when they succeeded at learning a new magic trick as part of the Spencer’s program ‘Hocus Focus’ was special. Their excitement and delight was the gift that everyone who was present received from Kevin’s dedication to his magic and the audience he works with. Kevin, Cindy, their crew and their hands on style made them a pleasure to work with. A big ‘thank you’ from the College of Central Florida and its communities.”
Mike Collins is the Assistant Principle at Hillcrest School. The philosophy there is the belief that the value of children is not found in their potential for productivity, but merely in their being. It is their ultimate goal to help each student develop a unique sense of worth by training them to function as independently as they are individually capable of doing.
I spent the day working with almost 150 students. By teaching them a couple of simple magic tricks, we were able to work on their ability to follow directions, planning and sequencing, improve their executive function abilities, and give them fun ways to engage socially with their peers and family.
Principle Collins wrote, “What a great experience. They talked about the tricks for days afterwards. Thanks for all you do to brighten up the lives of students. We truly need more like you!!!!”
After 6 workshops at Hillcrest, I spent the following day at two locations of the Key Training Center working with some very special people. I love working with these adults. I can’t begin to put into words how awesome this experience is for everyone involved – check out these expressions!
In addition to performances, I’m often contracted to do Continuing Education Workshops for Occupational and Physical Therapists. As Adjunct Faculty in the Occupational Therapy Department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, this workshop has the endorsement of one of the most prestigious medical schools in the nation. In addition, the American Occupational Therapy Association has granted their Approved Provider endorsement for continuing education as well.
The workshop was contracted by the Occupational Therapy Department at Adventist University and open to area therapists. Final evaluations were excellent and the directors of the program (Erin and Vicki) wrote this final note:
“I guess you know it already, but you are quite the rock star here. Seriously – I have not heard as much about a guest speaker (and we have many) in a LONG time. Thanks again for the BEST Continuing Education Workshop we have ever been to in our 23 years of practice!”
This was my third time to work in Andalusia and the experience just gets better and better! I rolled into town for a three-day residency that would include a Continuing Education Workshop for area therapists, a Professional Development Training Session that connected with more than 50 area teachers, classroom activities for special needs students, and a final performance at the Dixon Center for the Arts.
This was my second time working with The Arts Partnership but the first time we’ve done an extended residency program. We started with a family-friendly performance at the Findlay High School (since their normal venue is being renovated) and then spent two days working in the community including 8 workshops with area students, a Professional Development Training program for teachers, and an academic presentation for future teachers at the University of Findlay’s College of Education.
That’s brings us up to date for October! I’ll start writing about November soon, especially since it’s almost over! This has already been a very busy month but great things are happening for sure!!