‘Who knows what trash is?’ Magician thrills kids while showing them how to save the planet

Abigail Evans, 9, left, a student at Ashby Lee Elementary School in Quicksburg, assists Jonathan Austin during his magic show Tuesday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily

QUICKSBURG – The students of Ashby Lee Elementary on Tuesday laughed and were amazed all the while they were learning about recycling.

They were entertained for about an hour by Jonathan Austin, professional entertainer, magician and juggler and, as it turns out, advocate for the planet.

He would perform two shows. The first show was for pre-kindergarten, third, fourth and fifth graders. The remaining classes would see the next performance.

“Who knows what trash is?” Austin asked as hands shot up.

“Virginia spends $25 million picking up trash. That is money that can go to playgrounds or to give raises to the teachers.”

Jonathan Austin juggles plastic trash bags during his recycling magic show. Rich Cooley/Daily

He told the students Shenandoah County has 13 recycling sights, the closest to the school being located in Rebel Park.

He brought students on stage throughout the presentation, including third-graders Abigail Evans, 9,  and Nevaeh Anderson, 8.

Austin handed Abigail his “very expensive wand” and told her to wave it.

Before he finished the sentence the wand was limp in her hand.

“If something breaks you don’t need to throw it away, fix it,” he advised, then took back the wand, which then became straight again.

Ayla Williams, 8, of Mount Jackson, reacts to Jonathan Austin's recycling magic show held Tuesday at Ashby Lee Elementary School in Quicksburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Austin handed Nevaeh a green ball and told her to hold it tight in her hand.  At his command when she opened her hand to her amazement there were two green balls.

While pulling out his bag of tricks Austin continually reiterated the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle.

“You want to reduce trash, you want to reuse what you can, and recycle,” he said.

Austin also discussed an important but often overlooked aspect of recycling – purchasing items made of recycled material.

He juggled newspapers, turned a crushed plastic bottle back into a new one, and a smashed box into a new tissue box.

Jonathan Austin juggles on stage at Ashby Lee Elementary School on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

The kids were ecstatic when Austin rode around on a unicycle as he juggled bowling pins while explaining how bikes are good for the environment.

He brought out a bicycle.

“Please don’t do this yourself,” Austin said as he set the front wheel spinning.

He lifted the entire bicycle onto his chin and let go.

The kids again went wild in excitement.

That energy continued as he then ended his performance with the magician’s fire trick.

Austin set an empty pan on fire and extinguished it with the lid, only to reveal a white and black rabbit named Recycler.

“No way. How’d he do that,” kids in the audience squealed.

Afterward, as students headed back to class, third-grader Ayla Williams, of Mount Jackson, said she loved the show.

Her favorite part: the surprise emergence of Recycler the bunny as well as Austin balancing a full bicycle, spinning front tire and all, on his chin.

The best part, however, was that she learned about, and would commit to, the three R’s of reduce, reuse and recycle, she said.

Austin performed his first show in 1984, and has appeared at Walt Disney World, Kings Dominion and has performed at the White House during the inauguration for President Bill Clinton. Austin incorporated recycling into his educational shows in 2001.

“I had a passion for recycling and I incorporated that with my juggling. It is a good time,” Austin said.