Learning on a String

The front page of our local newspaper the other day had this wonderful column by Bob Flaherty about a local high school kid who has taken his skills in yo-yo-ing to new levels. Now, you might think, yo-yo? But yo-yo is pretty big around a certain set in our area, thanks in part to the most fantastic science store in the region (A-Z Science) where they hold classes on how to do tricks and compete with a yo-yo. I know, because a friend of my son’s has gone to compete in New York City and in Florida and other places.

But the newspaper focused on a boy named Daniel Dietz, who is not only considered one of the premiere yo-yo artists in our region, but also, in the entire country. And he is using that fame for a good cause. Daniel has raised more than $15, 000 for a group called Smile Train, which helps address problems of cleft lip and palate issues in the world.

The article also came not long after my colleague, Gail Poulin, invited Daniel to come visit her kindergarten class. I remember the day because Daniel performed in the cafeteria, and we were taking a test, but many of the boys in my class “had to use the bathroom” and took their time coming back. I imagine they were transfixed by the yo-yo act going on not far from our classroom.

Gail connected with Daniel through the amazing work she does with her students around the Kids are Heroes website, which showcases young people making a difference in the world. Gail writes about the project here at her class blog. Her students write comments as a class, known as Shout-outs, to the heroes and connect with the world. It just so happened that Daniel lived not far from our school and was willing to come and meet with the kindergarten students. I bet that visit by Daniel, and the message he sends through his work and play, is something they won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

And it reminded me that we need to value the skills of our students in all of its forms. I bet most of us think — yo-yo is fun but not real learning — but you need to see these kids in action and watch them practice (I have) to know that the skills include motor coordination, thinking through elaborate design in steps, memory skills and more. And then, to use those non-traditional skills to make a difference in the world? That is priceless.

Here is Daniel in action:

Peace (on a string),

  1. Older kids can be a real inspiration to the younger set and Daniel is just that. He is also stepping outside of his own comfort zone to perform and talk meaningfully about SmileTrain. It’s a win-win situation all around. Most of the heroes at KidsAreHeroes do just that. The kids take on a challenge, enlist the support of others including adults, make a simple plan, and reap the rewards. Many of the heroes take their projects on to even bigger things and bring about meaningful changes in this world. This early learning will have a lifelong impact, in a personal as well as professional sense.

  2. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks so much for posting this. I honestly wish every school could witness what Mrs. Poulin is doing with her kindergarten class. She is using our Kids Are Heroes web site in ways we had never imagined but now applaud vigorously. I think the same thing would work with other grades as well. So glad that Daniel got a chance to visit because it was just as good for him as it was for the class. Kudos to all!!

    -Gabe O’Neill
    Cofounder Kids Are Heroes

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