Sunday 24 September 2017

Sparking children's imagination for learning through circus skills

Johnny Phelan leads the Community Circus Kildare, C Circus K, group. Picture: James Duffy
Johnny Phelan leads the Community Circus Kildare, C Circus K, group. Picture: James Duffy

Celine Naughton

Time was when the circus in Ireland was the preserve of a handful of families such as Fossetts and Duffys, but today's contemporary artists are getting in on the act and teaching new generations the art of juggling, tightwire-walking, plate-spinning and other tricks of the Big Top trade.

Community Circus Kildare, or C Circus K as it's known, is a case in point.

Led by maestro Johnny Phelan, this is a group for adults and children over nine years who meet each week in Athy Community Arts Centre to hone their skills in stilt-walking, hula-hooping and other activities traditionally associated with clowns and contortionists.

Mr Phelan also puts on circus plays in libraries and primary schools throughout Kildare and elsewhere.

"It's enormous fun, but there's a serious creative and educational aspect to it too," he says.

"Children learn about the STEAM subjects - Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths - in ways they've never experienced before.

"While they balance feathers on their fingers and juggle with scarves, we explain the concepts of air resistance, aerodynamics, inertia, and Galileo's theory of gravity.

"Why do some things fall more slowly than others?

"What would fall quicker if you took all the air out of the room?

"Spinning balls and plates are used to discuss friction, angular momentum, and planetary rotation in space.

"It really sparks children's imagination, and when we help them walk across a tightwire at the end of the session, their eyes light up.

"Of course, in a school setting the teacher also has to walk the wire, which always gets a laugh.

"As an art form, circus is not nearly as well established as acting, writing or painting, but it's a seed that's going to grow and grow."

For further information see streettheatreireland.com.

Irish Independent

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