Todd Elementary Students Try their Hands at Circus Skills

Photo: Briarcliff School District

“How do they do it?” is probably one of the most-asked questions when watching circus acrobats.

At Todd Elementary, students had the chance to find out what it is like to be a circus performer by trying their hands at some serious circus skills.

Performers from the National Circus Project, a non-profit organization that brings the circus to schools all over the country, recently visited Todd. The program, generously sponsored by the PTA, began last week, when students practiced circus skills such as juggling and walking on stilts during physical education class, using equipment sent to the school by the National Circus Project.

The following week, the National Circus Project divided the student body into two groups based on grade. All students, teachers and teaching assistants watched a delightful live circus performance by professional acrobats Joyce Kung and Rich Potter.

Acrobats performed feats such as juggling and riding a unicycle.

The students were thrilled to welcome back the circus back, after a break for the past few years.

“I remember watching this in kindergarten,” said Sophia, a fourth grader.

After the performance, students had training sessions with the performers. Each group of two classes received a private lesson.

The lesson included tips and tricks on how to balance a feather, how to spin a lasso and a hula hoop, how to juggle scarves and spin a plastic plate on a stick, and how to toss and balance a devil stick with hand sticks. Students in grades 3-5 worked on more challenging skills, such as walking on stilts and using balance boards.

When the lesson ended, it was time for stations, where students tried their hands at everything they had learned.

“I hope students can see their own progress and see that circus skills are not impossible,” Kung said.

“Our goal is to unlock the mysteries of circus skills and make the impossible seem a little more possible,” Potter said.

At the end of class, students had the chance to ask the performers questions. One student wanted to know how they ride a unicycle.

Potter demonstrated to the students and showed the first step.

“Start with something easy, something you know, and work your way up, adding more as you go along,” he said to the students. “Just do it step-by-step, one thing at a time.”

Although practicing circus skills like juggling can seem daunting, the students seemed comfortable and unfazed.

“They played around with the equipment and the more they did it, the better they got at it,” said physical education teacher Jamie Tranchida. “They pick up on the circus skills relatively quickly because they are young and open-minded and have a growth mindset.”



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