The circus came to town! Children were excited to perform for their families on Zoom. It was a grand finalé to a month of learning about animals, what happens behind the scenes in a real circus, and writing circus picture stories.
Here’s why all of these events are important to children:
Children like excitement and adventure, and animals. If I can tap their interests, I have a ready-made foundation for learning. We covered science and nature (what do the animals eat? How do they travel and train to perform?), math (how much rope is needed to put up a circus tent? How many gallons of food do the animals eat?), and geography (where is Japan, Hungary, and Spain, where many of the performers are from?). It is a long list of learning, and a good one. Perseverance and determination is speckled throughout, much like sprinkles on ice cream.
How do I start? With books, of course. The best circus book is “Circus”, by Peter Spier.
It starts at the very beginning, arriving at a site and setting up the circus. Full page color illustrations show children everything, from the circus families in their trailers, to the animals, to practice, and to the circus itself. I love this book!
We also read:
“Circus Family Dog”, by Andrew Clement
“The Farmer and the Clown” trilogy by Maria Frazee
“The Circus Baby”, by Maud & Miska Petersham
We read fact books, too. One of the most interesting facts is about the elephants (no longer in many circuses.) They walked through the towns in the middle of the night, as they were too big to travel with the other animals. Did you know that the circus elephants were the first to cross the Brooklyn Bridge? When the bridge was completed, people didn’t believe it was safe. P.T. Barnum walked 21 elephants over the bridge.
Children wrote picture stories about being in a circus. “If I were in a circus…”
These stories are priceless! Picture stories are empowering, because they are an imprint of the mind, and all the words a child wants to say. Illustrating their story lets the child know how important their words are. The art of illustrating is a great beginning in expressing words and feelings – exactly what children need to do.
We played circus! All the fun and practice was really a step in children feeling good and confident. Play is powerful. When we planned a circus performance for families, this was different, as children picked their own parts and decided what to do. Really. Teachers supported and cheered. The result was empowered children who knocked their socks off. Parents loved it. More importantly, children had a big dose of self confidence and what happens after hard work.
Give children the tools, let them investigate, support their discovery, and there you have Education 101. Throw in sprinkles and you have the love of learning.