Illusionist Kevin Spencer laughs as students begin to give him a standing ovation after a trick during a visit to I.J. Holton Intermediate School Tuesday. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Illusionist Kevin Spencer laughs as students begin to give him a standing ovation after a trick during a visit to I.J. Holton Intermediate School Tuesday. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Archived Story

Magic for young minds – Holton students learn through the power of illusions

Published 1:08pm Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Magic happened inside a sixth-grade science classroom in the middle of I.J. Holton Intermediate School Tuesday.

Students learned a little sleight-of-hand, a few knots with a rope, and a neat little trick involving a dollar bill and two paper clips. The paper clips start apart when they’re fastened to the bunched-up dollar bill, but if you pull …

“Voila!” magician Kevin Spencer said, shooting the attached paper clips into the air and catching it to the surprise and delight of his captive audience.

Aaliyah Maly watches in amazement as illusionist Kevin Spencer pulls a string of ribbon from his mouth.
Aaliyah Maly watches in amazement as illusionist Kevin Spencer pulls a string of ribbon from his mouth.

Spencer and his assistants are at Holton for several days this week before his upcoming show, “Theatre of Illusion,” at the Paramount Theatre at 7 p.m. Thursday. Through Spencer’s magic-based education curriculum, dubbed “Hocus Focus,” Spencer gave students lessons in fractions, motion, energy transfer and a little Newtonian theory through the illusion of magic.

“It’s getting them to focus on accomplishing a task,” said sixth-grade teacher Carley Seifert. “As you can see, they’re engaged in the highest level right now.”

Students spent more than an hour captivated by and at times struggling with some of the magic tricks Spencer and his assistants showed off. That’s the point, according to Spencer.

“Everyone starts out at the same place,” Spencer said.

Spencer may have a lot of experience in illusion — he began his career in the 1980s — but it was in 2006 that Spencer realized the educational value in teaching some of his tricks to students. What first began as a way to get special education students to focus and grasp basic math concepts grew into a flexible way to support classroom teaching.

“It just became a really fun and engaging way for all students to take some concepts that can be very abstract and make them very tangible,” he said.

That’s what happened Tuesday inside Holton. Once they figured out how the paper clips stuck together, or what happens when you move rubber bands from one side of your hand to another, they began to identify Newton’s laws and how they applied to the magic at hand.

“I didn’t know there was so much math and science in magic,” sixth-grader Noelia Sandoval said.

Spencer worked with several classrooms on Monday and Tuesday and will finish his tenure on Wednesday, the day before his performance along with his wife, Cindy Spencer.

Olivia Shapinski, left, and Salma Masood learn how to tie a knot without letting go of the rope during a visit by illusionist Kevin Spencer Tuesday afternoon at I.J. Intermediate School. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Olivia Shapinski, left, and Salma Masood learn how to tie a knot without letting go of the rope during a visit by illusionist Kevin Spencer Tuesday afternoon at I.J. Intermediate School. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

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