The circus is in town, so let the cotton candy flow and the good times roll. For one day, the pupils at Our Lady of Libera Catholic School also became students of the circus, learning the fine art of juggling and comedic antics from the performers of Circus of the Kids.
This year’s festivities, which coincided with Earth Day on Friday, April 22, marked the school’s second year with the Florida-based program, which brings a traveling extravaganza to schools and camps all around the country.
“We have several activities for the children throughout the year, and [the circus] brings about a fun spirit in the school,” said Ana Maria Castaneda, principal of Our Lady of Libera School. “It’s very age-appropriate and stirs their imaginations.”
The day started with juggling workshops for the kids, led by Circus of the Kids owner and Director Bruce Pfeffer and his professional acrobatic company of performers.
The workshops, which were broken up into three groups starting with the older kids, began at about 9:30 a.m., and after learning a few key instructions, the kids were allowed to try them out for themselves.
Performers in training
Echoes of laughter could be heard all over the gymnasium as bean bags and scarves went flying everywhere, and by the end of the workshop, many of the kids were juggling like the pros.
“It was cool,” said seventh grader Joshua Dy, 12. “They had different souvenirs, and they taught us some more about juggling.” Dy remembered the Circus of the Kids performers from last year’s program. “We’ve improved on our juggling [since last year],” he said.
The circus tries to enhance a physical education curriculum through their workshops. However, schools still carry on their daily lesson plans.
“We try to incorporate as much as possible, so in between the program, they have lessons,” said Castaneda.
In addition to their new juggling skills and balancing acts, Pfeffer and his crew also talked about creative activities students can do in the classroom to further enhance their circus experience. Pfeffer also encourages the kids to keep practicing no matter how difficult it seems at first.
“If you think you can, then you can, and if you can’t then you can’t,” said Pfeffer.
Taking their act on the road
Originally, Circus for the Kids only toured around the state of Florida, but around the 1990s, Pfeffer took the act outside the state with some nervous hesitation. However, Circus of the Kids proved to be a success time and time again, no matter where they toured.
Circus of the Kids turns schools across the country into day-long or week-long workshops of clown college, where they learn everything from juggling and circus acrobatics to the fine art of fire-eating. (There was no fire eaten at Our Lady of Liberia, though.)
“We do this at several schools around the country,” said Pfeffer. “[At the end of the program], kids are fire-eaters and trapeze artists.”
This summer will mark the 23rd anniversary of the program, which was created by Pfeffer.
“We travel all over the country all year round,” said Pfeffer. “I fell in love with the circus as a child, and I knew I would grow up to do something with the circus.”
Pfeffer’s fascination with circus acrobats and feats inspired him to start juggling. He recalls how he would stand in this once spot in front of his house for hours just practicing.
The trained performers help students improve their hand-eye coordination, persistence, concentration, and self-confidence through a series of juggling or balancing skills workshops.
“They are very professional, and [the program] is equally alive as last year’s,” said Castaneda.
Each year, Circus of the Kids travels about 25,000 to 30,000 miles around the United States, bringing their act to almost 50,000 kids in schools summer camps, resorts and recreation departments.
“I think it’s a great experience and it was a lot fun,” said Diandra Lopez, 14, an eighth grader. “I enjoyed being in the workshops, and I think it’s better enclosed in a smaller group because they can concentrate more on what they’re teaching us.”
The culmination of the day’s events was a 45-minute circus performance put on by Pfeffer and his group of entertainers.
Kids were also allowed to purchase cotton candy, popcorn and sodas for the show, which were provided by the program.
And of course, no day at the circus could be complete without taking home some souvenirs. Throughout the day, students were allowed to exchange tickets for such keepsakes such as their own set of juggling scarves or beanbags to continue practicing their newfound craft. There were also the ever-popular glow necklaces, fiber optic wands, inflatable characters, and even rainbow-colored clown wigs.
For now the traveling company of Circus of the Kids has packed up their 38′ RV and is moving toward their next destination at a school near you.
For more information on Circus of the Kids, call (866) CIRCUS-5 or go to www.circusofthekids.com .