Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
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Program puts magic in elementary school


Gordon Russ gets a rise from his audience during a performance at Old Orchard Elementary School.

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Moments earlier, the cloth had seemingly disappeared. But when Gordon Russ pulled it from the sleeve of Tenae Poindexter, 5, he had his audience.

There were oohs, laughter, and applause from the children seated on the floor of the auditorium at Old Orchard Elementary School, and their attention was complete for a 45-minute lesson in geography with each point punctuated by a magic trick.

If some of the youngsters were unclear about the location of the earth's axis, they will likely remember it from Mr. Russ pushing a long needle through a clear balloon he had just inflated.

He then explained that the axis runs from the north pole to the south pole.

They were even more amazed when Mr. Russ extracted the needle, pushed the balloon into the air and then popped it with the same needle.

To get other points across he made a picture of an elephant disappear and made a rabbit appear in what had apparently been an empty cage.

Mr. Russ, 37, of Ferndale, Mich., travels several months of the year both with his geography lessons and doing more traditional magic shows at clubs. He said he once worked as a substitute teacher. He said the real reason he has worked full-time as a magician since 1989 is the flexibility it allows him to travel. Travel, he said, allows him to interject his personal experiences to the student audiences.

Claudia Griffith, principal, at Old Orchard, said she was pleased with the performance.

“I'm impressed with how much the children know,” based on their responses to general geography questions that Mr. Russ asked the audience.

“I'm sure I didn't know some of those things when I was in the third grade,” she said after the show for children in grades K-3. A second performance followed for children in the upper grades.

Nan Reny, president of the Parent-Teacher-Association, which chose the presentation, said the magician made points in geography that the children would remember. Mrs. Reny's son Matthew, 7, agreed, saying he would be better able to remember some of the lessons because of the show.

Er-Li Peng, 8, Matthew's second-grade classmate, agreed that it was a good show and that facts such as the number of continents will be easier to recall because of the show.

Mr. Russ said he enjoys presenting magic shows to all types of audiences, but bringing his enjoyment of travel and an understanding of geography to school children is particularly rewarding.

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