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20th-Century Skills

For all the emphasis on interactive technology and hyper-connectivity in schools today, some educators are finding it can still be beneficial—maybe even essential—to expose their students to slower and more time-honored modes of learning.

For example: The card game bridge is apparently gaining a toe-hold in schools, with a small but growing number of math teachers and after-school programs using it to teach strategy, concentration, and abstract-thinking skills. Seem too time-consuming or off-curriculum for you? Consider that both Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are known to be avid players and have contributed millions to the School Bridge League, launched in 2005.

One problem, however, is that it's not always easy to find someone in today's schools who actually knows how to play bridge. After hearing about the potential benefits the game might have for her 4th grade gifted education students, for example, Kansas City teacher Rosemary Brown ended up turning to a local retirement community to find a group of people who could train her in its nuances. "They loved the idea," she said.

Similarly, a music teacher in Clinton, Miss., is intent on teaching students an unhurried craft she learned from her mother: Knitting. Along with a group of like-minded educators in her school, Catherine Stagg has started an after-school knitting club now attended by 30 6th graders (including even one boy, who was inspired by a friend who learned to knit last year).

"Research is showing emotional and educational benefits to this art form," Stagg noted. "The repetitive movements and patterns are calming." She has also noticed that the process seems to help build students' confidence and pride in accomplishment.

It's seems worth keeping in mind, at any rate, that there might be something to some of last century's skills ...

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