LEWISTON — Thanks to Lewiston senior citizens, McMahon Elementary students in Christine Savignano’s classroom know how to play cribbage.

From March through May, Lewiston Senior Citizen cribbage league players volunteered to go to school and teach the game.

Savignano, who plays cribbage but says she’s nowhere as good as the seniors, invited seniors to teach the students after learning the group had a cribbage league.

Playing cribbage helps reinforce computation fluency, Savignano said. “They had to strategize, know what cards to discard, use reasoning skills, anticipate their opponent’s move.”

Lewiston Senior Citizen President Roger Labbe, a retired teacher at the Lewiston Middle School, recruited other seniors to teach. Fridays became cribbage day at McMahon.

“We had a nice turnout,” Labbe said, adding that about 10 seniors participated. He didn’t miss a Friday. Seniors and students played in the gym. Labbe assigned certain seniors to play with two students.

“We were trying to teach them the strategy of cribbage,” Labbe said. “There are math skills involved. You have to be good at counting.” Playing takes focus and quick calculating. When students look at playing cards, they have to quickly know which cards add to 15 or 30.

When Savignano announced to fifth-graders that they would be playing cribbage with senior citizens, “they didn’t know what to expect,” she said. Students were surprised how sharp the seniors were. Seniors didn’t just play, “they were giving good advice,” she said.

When the cribbage lessons ended, students regretted it was over. “They looked forward to it,” she said.

Labbe said students showed a genuine interest and were polite. “That’s why we didn’t mind going back.”

Seniors had fun teaching. “It’s like being with grandkids,” Labbe said. He earned the nickname “Teddy Roosevelt” from the students after they declared he looked like the late president.

Savignano said she’s pleased with how the lessons went. The seniors “were great,” she said, calling them a valuable resource. “I was so appreciative of them spending that time with us. One gentleman even baked banana bread. I was very impressed with patience, their level of skill.”

More cribbage teaching and playing is planned for next year. Seniors are interested in doing things for the community, Labbe said. “We want to let it be known we’re not into having the city take care of us.”

Savignano hopes to expand the opportunity next year to more students. “If more seniors could come in, that would be great. It adds to our math curriculum.”

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