Energy Education with a Bit of Magic

Local entertainer makes learning how to save energy – and the environment – fun for kids.

Juggling, jokes and magic – all tools of trade for longtime educator turned entertainer Bob Kann. He is the architect of MaGicEnergy, MGE's 20-year-old program for teaching kids about energy and how to use it wisely.  Kann's program has changed with the energy landscape, but his enduring lesson is around the value of energy efficiency.

"What you try to do as an educator is plant seeds. And you hope some of those are going take root and sprout," Kann says.

Energy "edutainment"

Bob Kann shows an LED lightbulb to children as part of a MaGicEnergy presentation.

Bob Kann shows an LED lightbulb to children as part of a MaGicEnergy presentation.

On this summer day, Kann's audience is a group of local elementary schoolchildren participating in Planet Protectors Camp at the Madison Children's Museum. He has just placed a traditional lightbulb under a cup, only to magically pull it out from under a different cup where another object had been seconds earlier.

"Not only did the lightbulb jump over here, but I turned it into an energy-efficient LED," Kann tells the room. "This light will give you just as much light as that other bulb, but it will last a lot longer and it uses a lot less energy."

Kann performs for kids throughout the year at local schools, libraries and other locations.

"I use every kind of theatrical skill I have to integrate the fun with the content," he says.

A former high school teacher and university professor, Kann learned magic while researching for a project on Harry Houdini. MGE approached Kann in 2001 about developing an entertaining energy program for kids.  

"Their job is to make sure the message is solid, and my job is to make sure the kids can have a good time and learn simultaneously, which is a challenge because there's a lot of information in this," says Kann.

picture of an electric vehicleBeyond the role of energy efficiency, Bob's program also includes lessons about renewable energy, such as wind and solar. He explains why it's a "renewable" resource and better for the environment.

He also shares with students how technology is changing, using as an example, a photo of an all-electric vehicle, which – unlike gasoline-powered vehicles – generates no emissions.

Community partners

Planet Protectors Camp is a hands-on program at the Madison Children’s Museum. Organizers say MaGicEnergy's lessons around conserving energy makes it a good fit for the camp.

"We try to teach all about renewable energy, recycling and how to be better for your planet," says Cheryl DeWalt, environmental education manager at the Museum. "He (Kann) does a really great job of getting his facts across. So, while he is really funny and engaging, he was also giving out a lot of information that's good for kids to know."

MaGicEnergy is one of a number of resources from MGE to help our youth learn about energy. Visit mge.com to learn more.

published: Aug-16-2018