Maybe it conjures up images of the traveling show filled with lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). Maybe not.
Our school has had a circus program for a long time. For the first few years I taught at the school, I really had no idea what the program was all about, and didn’t really see the links between what I did in physical education, and what they did in their weekly circus classes.
That was until I heard Dr. Dean Kriellaars speak about injury rates in circus performers at the International Physical Literacy Conference (IPLC) this past June. He mentioned that the reason that circus performers rarely experience (severe) injuries is because the performers have spent countless hours being exposed to and developing a variety of movement patterns. Their bodies are so well equipped to deal with anything that is thrown their way because of how physically literate they are.
After that, I took way more notice in what our circus program was doing, and was glad that we had already decided to book our local circus provider for a week of instruction in our physical education classes after classes resumed in September.
For three classes students learned how to juggle scarves, balls, flower sticks, and for some, clubs. They learned how to perform some new individual and group balances and pyramids. They learned how to do a variety of jumps off of the mini-trampoline.
One of my biggest memories of that particular week, beyond learning how to juggle three balls myself (FINALLY), was how proud the kids were when they learned how to do something new. They couldn’t wait to show it off to the instructors, their friends or myself. It was great to see students who participate in circus, acrobatics, gymnastics and parkour outside of school excel in this environment, and it was equally great to see those who are more gifted in the traditional sports pick up a new skill or two.
From a curriculum standpoint, the circus experience was a nice introduction for our K-2 students into the focus of our year – developing their fundamental movement skills in a more thoughtful manner. While we have focused on these skills in the past, the IPLC highlighted how important it is to develop these skills in a variety of environments and contexts. We have spent a great deal of our first two months focusing solely on running, jumping and balancing activities in Grade 1 & 2 (more on that in another post). Yet these stations are becoming increasingly challenging, requiring students to combine movement patterns acquired in previous classes to complete the new activities successfully. For our Grade 3-5 students, the experience was great at reminding them of the importance of perseverance, building trust and communication skills through the group balances, and (re)building hand-eye coordination, necessary for their ensuing volleyball unit.
I am definitely a fan of what it has to offer, and am looking forward to bringing our instructors back in later this year for a return visit.
Until next time…