The rise of Circademics

Date Posted: 22/07/2015

A clown

The popularity of teaching circus skills to school children is on the rise, and it’s backed up by some pretty serious evidence, too.

If you are juggling with a class of unruly pupils then why not try introducing them to some extracurricular clowning around?

There’s a new branch of academic study known as ‘circademics’ that examines the social impact of circuses.

As part of this body of research, the impact of learning circus skills on children’s development is being monitored.

So far, the results are proving positive. In certain parts of the worldcircus skills are being used to help keep marginalised young people in the classroom rather than out on the streets

An ongoing Canadian study from the International Centre for Art for Social Change for example, done in partnership with Cirque du Monde and Cirque du Soleil, is looking into how social circus programs with adolescent and young adults living in precarious situations impacts their experience of precarity; and why.

Practitioners claim that teaching children circus skills helps them to trust other people, and raises their self-esteem and sense of identity.

Another study in Galway, Ireland is assessing the intrinsic value of youth circus and its impact on children’s happiness.

As the idea of circus skills for good gains momentum, circus skill schemes are popping up all over the UK and beyond – there’s even a map from Cirque du Soleil group to show you exactly where they all are.

As most of the studies are still ongoing, we must wait for their results, but the very fact that so many schemes are running, alongside the research that is being done, is proof enough of their popularity, suggesting that letting children take part in circus workshops is a positive move.

Juggling skills.

Case Study: London’s National Centre for Circus Arts: a new spin on PE

A group of Key Stage 1 youngsters from the De Beauvoir Primary School in Hackney tried their hands at juggling during a high-flying trip to London’s National Centre for Circus Arts.

The visit provided the youngsters with a thrilling practical insight into their Curriculum-linked study topic on the circus. 

The centre, which is a facility unique to the UK, is regarded as one of the top three circus schools in Europe. It is the only place in Britain where students can earn a degree in circus skills and it also offers a Level 3 BTEC Diploma in Performing Arts – Circus Arts.

De Beauvoir follows the International Primary Curriculum and the pupils were studying a unit called The Circus is Coming to Town. The Physical Education element of the unit covers juggling with balls and how to balance and make movements used in circus performances, and in the Society section youngsters explore what it’s like to be a circus artist. 

“I thought it would tie up learning with activity,” explained Sarah, the class teacher. “Most of the children have never been to a circus and are unlikely to do so, and this was another reason I chose the centre for the visit.

“The visit involved a tour around the centre and going into all the different training spaces and watching the professionals and amateurs who were using them. We saw trapeze artists, acrobats, people balancing, turning in hoops on the floor and working with ropes and lengths of material suspended from the ceiling. It was amazing.

“We then went with a professional circus performer into one of the rooms with a sprung floor for acrobatics. The pupils had fun bouncing around on that and then she showed us how to juggle with balls and how different parts of the body can be used to throw a ball, skittle and other objects.

“By the end of the session the pupils could throw and catch a ball from one hand to another, which is a real achievement for five and six-year-olds.”

Social circus organisations: where to find them?

As well as the National Centre for Circus Arts, London also boasts Albert & Friends Instant Circus, Performers without Borders and the Roundhouse venue, which offers Street Circus skills for children aged 11 to 16.

Across the rest of the country there is the Invisible Circus and Circomedia in Bristol, and Bandbazi in Brighton. Down in Cornwall there is the Cirque du Ciel in Penzance and teachers up north can find the Circus Starr in Congleton and Green Top in Sheffield.  

To access Cirque du Soleil’s map and more information on circademic studies click here.

School Travel Organiser's Guide