School Desk

More than clowning around

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Students at AmPark Neighborhood School have run away with the circus. 

But to the relief of parents and teachers, this circus travels no further than the school’s gym.  

For six weeks in the fall, third through fifth grade students at the school on Hillman Avenue got a glimpse into the life of traveling performers as part of a “Circus Arts” unit in their physical education classes. 

From hula hooping to walking on stilts, each class got a chance to learn circus-themed skills. The unit culminated in a collaborative performance for younger students at the school.

“It’s more fun than any other sport I’ve played,” said fifth-grade student Naveah Diaz, 10, who said her favorite skill was feather balancing — keeping a peacock feather propped on her fingertip or her nose without dropping it. 

“When you play soccer, it’s so much pressure on you. Here, if you can’t do something, they won’t make you do it,” she added. 

On Jan. 9, a group of fifth graders gave an encore performance of their final circus act, set to the famous circus march, “Entry of the Gladiators.” 

As some balanced feathers on their palms, others hula-hooped and jumped on a miniature trampoline at the center of a labyrinth design — AmPark’s symbol — on the floor.

The performance culminated with four girls walking on modified stilts and a scarf-juggling display.

“I felt like I was at the Big Apple Circus. This was great,” AmPark’s Principal Christine Milton said. 

Acting as the ringmaster of sorts was physical education teacher Caitlin Cargill, who has worked at AmPark for three years. 

She called on a previous stint teaching circus arts at a school in Maine to introduce the unit to AmPark.

“This is not basketball; this is not capture the flag,” Ms. Cargill explained. “There are so many elements that you’re guaranteed to have a student feel success with at least one of the elements.” 

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