Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus shut its doors in 2017 after 146 years of operation. But Circus arts are alive and well! And for good reason.
According to a research summary published by the The American Circus Educators Association, Circus Arts training helps students learn, “a multitude of physically expressive skills: juggling promotes cross-body and hand-eye coordination; uni-cycling and wire walking promote core strength and balancing skills; acrobatics and aerials foster strength and motor control.”
It’s also been proven to help students emotionally. Recent research from the University of South Australia reveals that working on circus skills uniquely fosters mental health benefits.
Lead researcher, Dr. Richard McGrath says that, “after participating in the circus program children showed significant improvements in four areas of mental wellbeing: stress relief; self-esteem; confidence; and socialization.”
The Circus Arts program at Summerfield Waldorf School and Farm seeks to deliver all these mental and physical benefits to our students while, of course, providing a fun and inspiring learning environment. The goal of our program is to support the healthy development of the child — from learning to find balance and developing a healthy brain; to building healthy relationships and trust through acrobatics.
Our Circus Arts program was born when Sieglinde Basmajian arrived at Summerfield to teach Eurythmy. When Sieglinde left high school, she went to Holland to train in a circus school. After an injury and surgery, she gave up her circus studies and became a Eurythmy teacher.
After coming to SWSF, Sieglinde met her future husband, Don, who was learning circus arts in the Spatial Dynamics training he was taking. Don has studied martial arts, boxing and kick boxing for decades. After juggling and practicing acrobatics together, Sieglinde and Don had the idea to train a few classes at Summerfield in circus arts and put on a show with a few grades classes.
The school community loved the shows so much that the program has grown ever since! Don, a class teacher at Summerfield for over 40 years, is now responsible for the Circus Arts program during the school day and Sieglinde directs the after-school program and summer camps.
Don says, “We have seen children who had a weak connection to their bodies work hard to learn basic skills like a roll or cartwheel, find the courage to perform on aerial skill, and then become a leader during the creation of a show or a counselor in our summer camp. In Circus, everyone can find their place, so it is an activity that a wide variety of ages can artistically create and work together. Children also love to do what seems impossible and show their work together to the community!”