Science, Tech, Engineering and Magic


Alan Kahn

“Watch me whisk away this tablecloth without breaking a dish. It’s the intersection of Science and Magic…”

Alan Kahn, a new addition to the faculty, teaches eighth grade physical science and also Gateway to Technology.

Kahn majored in public relations and minored in marketing at San Jose State University, graduating in the 1980s.

He returned to SJSU 10 years ago to receive a multi-subject teaching credential, and acquired a single-subject science teaching credential at Cal State East Bay five years ago.

After receiving his credentials, Kahn has been inspired to teach students what he loves most: science.

“I like to see the spark when children do something themselves and they realize that they can succeed and do it,” Kahn said.

Prior to teaching at UPA, he taught middle school science, and sixth grade math and history at Monticello Academy in Santa Clara for three and a half years.

Science has been Kahn’s passion since he was young.

“I was always intrigued by it [and] had fun with it,” he said. “When I was teaching 10 years ago, I would probably spend more class time doing science, or if we read a story, [I would] somehow work a science angle into it.”

Kahn is also known as a magician who performs in the Maker Faire at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds and at numerous other science shows around the Bay Area with audiences of up to 200 people.

“I started [learning magic] because my father was a magician back in the ’40s and so he would tour around and do shows back then,” Kahn said. “He always had stuff around the house, so I got interested in magic that way.”

Last summer, Kahn traveled all over Northern California and produced up to three shows a week.

During the school year, he limits his shows to weekends and performs only two to three times a month.

His shows put science front and center by presenting events that seem as if there is a magic trick or an illusion to it, but really are just science principles.

Kahn calls his shows STEM*, referring to the acronym as “Science, Technology, Engineering and Magic.”

In his most recent performance over Labor Day weekend at History Park, he put aluminum and styrofoam together in a way where people would not normally see a connection.

He also spent 10 minutes explaining the science behind a tornado tube.

“When people see it, they’re like, ‘What a cute tornado,’ but there’s a lot of science behind it,” Kahn said. “[For example], why does the water stay up there? Why does the water move down? Why does the water stay on the side of the bottle?”

So far, Kahn has appreciated his experience at UPA.

“My co-team of other science teachers are a lot of fun [and] a big help,” he said. “Probably the hardest thing to get used to is the block schedule because at my other school [classes were 50 minutes].”

*Kahn’s next STEM show will be on Saturday, October 7 at Ohlone College in Fremont, CA.