More than five decades ago when I was a student, a
classmate showed the well-known string trick
Jacob's Ladder to our class. Several of us learned it
and showed it to our parents, surprised to learn that
they had all seen it when they were growing up.
Favorite recipes, love of reading, and holiday
traditions are not the only thing that's getting passed
along to the next generation.
But string tricks? YES! For the last several years I
taught, I explored ways to integrate the teaching of
simple string tricks into meaningful learning time.
Here is a sheet I prepared for parents so they would
understand that there was a method to my madness
(I had to do that a lot!) and this wasn't just a frivolous
waste of time. Read through (especially if you're a
parent or an educator) and see what you think.
I still believe those are all valid statements, and have
recently seen them reaffirmed in my own grandchildren.
Here are the tricks I offered to my school classes, sharing
them during break times. Watching the learners become
teachers was perhaps the most gratifying aspect of this.
Each student had a list of these tricks so they could
keep a record of which ones they had mastered and
which ones they still aspired to learn. The lists below
hung on the classroom wall for quick reference. In free
time before roll call and the pledge each morning, the
classroom was a laboratory of kids teaching kids and
begging for the newest tricks. It was great!
String tricks are a great way to prevent boredom. I
allowed my students to take them to the playground
(though I made sure they had plenty of physical activity
as well) and on field trips. These young ladies are
doing Jacob's Ladder on the way to the House in
the Horseshoe. We even showed string tricks to our
guides there, who acknowledged what a great example
of folk tradition the string tricks are.
During Thanksgiving, I decided to see if Brianna was
interested in learning Jacob's Ladder. I always felt
that age 8 or 9 was the appropriate readiness level
for both interest and manual dexterity. She had it
mastered in 15 minutes and was doing it with her
eyes closed the next day. Former students, does this
sound familiar? Maybe it was YOU a few years back!
All five of our grandchildren received strings during
Thanksgiving week and are excited about learning
more and more tricks. I'll do some of the teaching
and so will they. In fact, in the picture below you'll see
that Hunter returned to Georgia as a "string missionary",
teaching his tricks to some attentive learners at his
basketball practice. What a thrill to me!
If you're a former student, perhaps you remember
doing string tricks. If you've forgotten them all, you
can easily find them on-line. There are youtube videos
that show the step-by-step as well as pictorial guides.
For grownups, there's an additional benefit I didn't
need for my school class (except at state testing time):
String tricks are the consummate stress reliever!
Cut you a string and give it a shot!