by Zac Schnell, Summer Intern at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
Many people have asked me, “How does it work with 9 to 12 year old kids?” With a smiling smirk, it is easy to reply with, “It’s like experiencing a magic trick over and over again.”
Many magic tricks contain three steps known as The Pledge, The Turn, and The Prestige. A week at Tremont exemplifies these three steps.
First, the “pledge” is where the magician shows the audience something that appears normal. The magician (or teacher/naturalist) presents games and activities that appear to be just another game. In reality there are hidden objectives that create a layer of learning. The kids witness and enjoy the “pledge,” because they are being shown something that appears normal to them such as a tree with leaves.
After the “pledge” the second step is witnessed. It’s called the “turn,” where the magician makes an ordinary act seem extraordinary. The “turn” occurs when the naturalist points out all the functions that a tree and its leaves can do.
For example, all of the photosynthesis that is occurring, or why this particular tree grows crookedly, or perhaps tasting the leaf and finding out it has a sour taste to it. The “turn” is when the kids start to realize how great the leaf might taste, and therein realize how extraordinary it is that this “green leaf” can be eaten and enjoyed while out in the woods. The “turn” happens as those “AHH-HA” moments that we see from many of the kids that pass through.
“Every kid also has their ‘prestige’ moment. This is where the effect of the illusion is produced. It’s in the final effect of revealing what the tree is.”
Every kid also has their “prestige” moment. This is where the effect of the illusion is produced. It’s in the final effect of revealing what the tree is. The tree that grows crookedly and has sour tasting leaves is now presented as the sourwood tree. This brings an entire new recognition to the kid’s eyes when the trick is finally revealed.
This has a lasting effect on the kids, because now every time they notice the sourwood tree they can relive the magic they witnessed and remember how they learned about the tree without every realizing they learned about the tree.
The magic is made as kids grow and learn about the world around them. Tremont is a place where kids experience this magic. Every good magician can create a trick that ends with an impressive prestige. The kids who come to Tremont enjoy a spectacular prestige.
Zac Schnell is a Summer Intern at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, which is located at 9275 Tremont Rd., Townsend,TN 37882. For more information about programs and events, visit GSMIT.org or call 865-448-6709.