Math by any other name: Cribbage with seniors hones thinking skills in District 834

Karina Burns shows her cribbage hand to Irv Johnson at a recent cribbage game. (Photo courtesy of Sue Schultz)

A cribbage program that started 10 years ago simply as a way to get seniors involved in their community has expanded, creating community within the community.

“When it started, I had approached Andersen Elementary school really to volunteer as a part of Community Thread,” Bayport Senior Center Program Manager Sue Schultz said. “In a town like Bayport so much is done with churches, so the schools were a perfect outlet.”

Schultz said the senior center originally had a reading group planned in the afternoons, but it didn’t take off.

“The seniors weren’t that into it, so I waited awhile and then approached (teachers) Rachel Klancher and Christi Wallace, about starting something in Afton-Lakeland, and they asked if I had thought about cribbage,” Schultz said.

Schultz started a monthly cribbage program at the school that has since expanded to a twice-a-month visit. It has also led to accessibility projects, apple pie baking events, forest ecology programs and a boat regatta in the spring. It also includes more involvement at Rutherford Elementary in Stillwater.

But Schultz said she’s seen the most impact with the cribbage program.

“My goal was to get seniors involved in schools, and it’s pretty amazing,” Schultz said. “You see a lot of kids having trouble with adding, and putting this together (teaches) kids how to make 15, 30 and 31. Since we started kids are playing more, and I know they’re playing at home, too, because they are getting better. It’s a more fun way to teach math, to make it a game instead of math.”

In all the years that she’s worked with cribbage, Schultz says she hasn’t had any kid figure out what they were really doing until last year.

“I had one student tell me, ‘I know we’re playing math, and you’re tricking us,’ to which I said, ‘No it’s just a fun game!’” Schultz said.

Altogether the program has 50 volunteers, and that’s only for playing cribbage with the students. Schultz said that a few of the volunteers have grandchildren in the program so there is some changeover, but there’s always people willing to pick up spots when friends travel out of town for the winter or leave. She added that they have members participating in the cribbage games from Stillwater, Bayport and Lakeland.

The cribbage games have helped to build intergenerational community in the St. Croix Valley, according to Schultz.

“One of the seniors told a story earlier this year,” Schultz said. “They had a student run up to them at the grocery store, and the mother was worried because she thought her kid was running toward a random stranger, but the child introduced the senior to their mother.”

The students also bring smiles to the seniors’ faces at the end of the year with presents and thank you notes.

“I had one student write me and say that he’s glad he knows how to play cribbage because when he goes to college he can meet girls this way,” Schultz said with a laugh. “I wanted to tell him that he could start that in high school.”

To get involved with cribbage or any of the other events call Schultz at 651-275-8907.


Contact Avery Cropp at [email protected]