Manning Valley Neighbourhood Services (MVNS) 
resourcing and empowering the Manning Valley community

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Circus Yircus

MVNS held its first Circus workshops in Taree in the January 2008 school holidays.  This was achieved through a 3-way partnership between Gunnedah Circus School, Upper Lansdowne Young Drama Group and MVNS. The circus holds an essence of excitement and draws youth in a way that no other entertainment can.  It is available to everyone, whether as a participant or a spectator.  When youth participate in circus skills training it also holds an element of interest for the family and therefore the community as they eagerly follow the changes in their childs’ ability. They are attracted to the opportunity to learn new skills.

Once the local youth have obtained a certain level of expertise in these skills, they then become available to continue workshops and activities for other local youth.  Once there is the opportunity to access professional arts development opportunities locally, it becomes a less expensive and smaller task to organise.

It has been shown that circus especially meets the needs of teens, as long as trainers have circus skills and are able to work with them.  Circus often gives teens a result they can be proud of, one that shows their uniqueness and difference, and allows them to see themselves in a society that includes their language, interests and music.  It gives a social context in which to express their individualism and to join in a group exercise.

Professional development can be seen in taking responsibility for safety of themselves and others along with more capacity to give and access social and emotional support.  You can never underestimate the value of these attributes in all aspects of their lives.

Studies have acknowledged that circus fulfils many physical education, sporting and personal development requirements for a child.  When used in partnership with more traditional approaches it is capable of achieving positive growth in all three fields.  Circus has been acknowledged as a positive sporting experience for youth deemed ‘at risk’ in our schools.  It also teaches strategies that promote leadership, teaching and direction.

Along with the physical and personal development for many youth who would generally be considered to be ‘at risk’ for a number of reasons, whether that be alcohol and drug use, petty crime, general inertia relative to education etc, the sense of adventure children experience from this type of learning can be directed appropriately.  Many of the risk taking aspects of their lives can be attributed to a misdirected need for thrills.

Skills learned during circus practice are things that can be useful throughout life:

  • having poise and concentration under pressure
  • doing something they never thought possible
  • mastering a skill through trial and error
  • creating something out of nothing and seeing it come to fruition
  • working together in a cooperative way to bring about something special
  • that they never thought they could do by themselves

Circus learning can open doors to peer teaching and mentoring in ways not often seen in other subjects. Only a certain amount can be taught by the teacher, while many more skills are discovered by the students themselves who have taken the next step on their own and made a new discovery.  This is often shared and results in cohesion and culminates in a rewarding process.

Other benefits include:

  • improves the ability to focus and concentrate
  • improves fine motor skills boost self confidence
  • develops balance, rhythm and reflexes
  • stimulates imagination
  • development of patience and persistence
  • provides a model for cooperative learning
  • reminds us that challenges can be fun!

What are the benefits and outcomes for the community?

  • Circus creates an environment of respect and safety that opens the possibility for peer learning
  • Educators and parents (and the community generally) see that child’s future engaged in a craft that has trust, teamwork, magic, discipline and creativity in it

Conclusions shows that participants not only achieve growth in the skills, but also achieve positive growth in values, virtues and social, group and personal skills (including life skills, cooperative skills and creative skills).  Any of these aspects can provide an unlimited opportunity for children from our socially disadvantaged areas to interact and respond with this sort of project in a way which also provides benefits to the community through participation, pride and enthusiasm for their achievements.

In short, circus arts offers critical life skills including discipline, perseverance, personal responsibility, the ability to work well with others, self-confidence, creativity, and appreciation for life.  It is an amazing tool for dealing with youth in difficulty.