The circus: Coming to a school near you!

January 7, 2016 Michelle DeSantos
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When children are encouraged to combine learning new skills with fun physical activity, something magical happens.

The National Circus Project brings fun to neighborhood schools while teaching students new skills. P.S. 128, the Bensonhurst School, 2075 84th Street, welcomed the organization with open arms on Tuesday, November 24 and Wednesday, November 25. The students were treated to two circus performances and then a hands-on workshop for all classes in the school from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Assistant Principal Jayme Perlman was the organizer of the event. “I don’t know who’s having more fun, the kids or the adults,” she said as she watched the interaction. “I’m so excited to see learning come alive for our children,” she went on, stressing that the workshops provide everything the children could imagine about the circus, infusing academics with the techniques needed to succeed at replicating these types of tricks.

Kindergarten co-teachers Patricia Guarneri and Victoria Milata were also enthusiastic. “The performers had a great rapport with the children, and made the experience very interactive,” said Guarneri, while Milata remarked that it was nice to see the performers “relate their tricks to other subjects, and encourage the children to try and get better, and to not give up.”

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National Circus Project Artist/Instructor Liam Selvey expresses his joy in being a part of such a cause; “It’s that A-ha moment that I enjoy, when they get to do the tricks and you can see how excited they are,” he said. “It’s something within yourself and it’s not competitive. It’s about enriching yourself and learning new things. My dad taught me to juggle when I was seven and I never recovered. I get to do what I love.”

After a brief tutorial, including the do’s and don’ts of using the circus equipment, which had the children gasping in awe, the students eagerly jumped right into their workshops. Four different stations were created. The children rotated in groups to each of the stations, allowing time to learn each of the circus tricks as the instructors monitored their progress. The stations included scarf juggling, balancing with feathers “devil” sticks, and plate spinning.

The children were energetic, to say the least. The pride on their faces when they were able to do a circus trick was the true story behind what the National Circus Project is all about. In fact, when it came time to put the equipment away, the room was filled with sighs. The children had so much fun, that they didn’t want it to end.

Perlman stressed that the workshops provided a great form of physical education, noting, “The children aren’t in a classroom sitting down, This enrichment program is about the whole of the child,” allowing them to think and be active at the same time and to “have fun being a kid.”

The National Circus Project is a cultural arts organization that promotes student participation in the arts as well as in physical education. The organization sends teams of professionals to schools throughout the Northeastern U.S. For more information, visit,

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