“You gotta be a magician to keep a kid’s attention more’n two minutes nowadays.” ~ Foghorn Leghorn 1951
Although uttered by a Warner Brothers cartoon character 65 years ago, the essence of the words of the frustrated fowl have rung true from generation to generation since. What then does one do to capture and hold the attention of kids, slipping them an education in the process?
You are now pondering the question that teachers around the world are faced with on a daily basis. On the afternoon of December 6, the elementary level kids of the North Central Schools were treated to magic with a message, as the Officer Phil program stopped by to talk with the kids about bullying, respect and the danger of strangers.
The Officer Phil program is a service of Creative Safety Products of Pittsburgh, PA. Presenting the program this year was Tom Rozoff, a.k.a. ‘Magic Tom’, whose use of sleight of hand grabbed the attention of the kids at the outset, and with his ventriloquism assistant, Lucky Duck, gave the kids a great time, as well as a great education.
“We do it with entertainment, so the kids are having a great time, but they don’t realize that they’re learning right along with it,” Mr. Rozoff explained. One way of ensuring audience attention is the old concept of audience participation, something of which Mr. Rozoff encouraged and received plenty of. While law enforcement programs can tend to be stiff, stodgy and uninteresting to young children, the presentation of Magic Tom was anything but dull, and for good reason. The organization has researched the attention span of kids, and tailored their program to dovetail right into their research. As Mr. Rozoff explained, “When I got into the school assembly programs, you had to do 45 minutes. Now it’s a half hour if you’re lucky; kids just don’t have the attention span. You’ve got to grab them, AND you’ve got to hold them.”
On this day…mission accomplished.
The interactive show had the kids raising hands to participate, and reciting back key phrases like, “Be a buddy…not a bully,” while teaching kids what to do in situations like dealing with bullies, dealing with strangers, and even what to do if a kid happens upon a firearm or drugs. After the program, the kids were still buzzing about what they had just seen and heard. The message had been delivered, and the message was received…with smiles and laughs.
Timothy Kays can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org