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Bridging the generational gap

Bonnie Malterer, right, watches as her partner, Cassidy, plays her hand. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 4
Karen Siegfried, a player with the Duluth Duplicate Bridge Club, helps seventh grader Brendan Craycraft and partner figure out who plays first. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 4
Maxine Alander, A sixth grader at Duluth Edison Charter Schools North Star, smiles at something her bridge partner, Marco Boddy, said as she prepares her hand.3 / 4
Tom Malterer oversees the end of quarter bridge tournament in Mary Lynch's classroom at Duluth Edison Charter School North Star. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)4 / 4

Mary Lynch's Duluth Edison Charter Schools North Star middle school language arts classroom was abuzz with activity last Wednesday. Thirty students excitedly asked roaming adults questions while quickly sorting and placing playing cards on desks.

"Wait, who starts then?" "I have the trump ... I think." "What do I do first?" "Did we play this board yet?"

It's all part of the annual sixth-to-eighth-grade bridge elective tournament. Members of the Duluth Duplicate Bridge Club were on hand to run the tournament by entering all the students' scores into the computer and see who played their hands the best. At DECS North Star, Lynch's second quarter class focused on the strategies involved in the playing of bridge. She started to teach the class about 10 years ago after taking community education bridge classes.

"I saw the opportunity to bring bridge into the school and teach it to the next generation. It's also a way of keeping the game alive through the youth," Lynch said.

Volunteers from the Duluth Duplicate Bridge Club had come in during class throughout the quarter to help the students learn the basics, refine their strategies, and answer questions.

"They're very interested in learning and that's exciting to see," said DDBC volunteer Karen Siegfried. "Junior high kids seem to grasp onto it very well. They have the enthusiasm."

Of course, there are some differences between the DDBC and the classroom.

"One thing that's different for sure is the noise level. I was a little shocked when I walked in the classroom the first time, but you get used to it," Siegfried said. "It's definitely not like that at clubs and tournaments. We're a quieter crowd."

Siegfried said she's excited to teach the hobby to a new generation. She's played off and on since she was 18 years old.

""I had an aunt who said, 'Karen, learning to play bridge is a social must.' Of course, that was about 50 years ago, so you know. Not exactly a requirement for 18-year-olds today, though if you ask me ... " Siegfried said.

What do the students like about the class? For eighth grader Christian Larocque, it's the strategy of bridge.

"You have to think ahead and expect what moves your opponent will make," Larocque said.

He'd never played bridge before taking the class, but he enjoyed card games such as cribbage and garbage. Larocque has taken the class all three of his middle school years and wishes to continue to play outside of the class.

Sixth grader Derek Mayne is just started to learn to play this year, but he already has a grasp of the basics.

"It's about 90 percent skill and 10 percent luck, which is cool," Mayne said.

His bridge partner and fellow sixth grader Wesley Thiry has a slightly different focus.

"It's fun to crush someone when you win," Thiry said.

Tournament director Tom Malterer had his hands full in trying to direct the movement of the bridge boards and help with game play.

"It's a little chaotic because it can be confusing which way to move the boards. But they're still learning, so it's OK. It's fun for me, too," Malterer said.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

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