Cork pupils balance study with learning circus skills

Finding the right balance between learning and fun poses no problem for students at a school where unicycle, tightrope walking and other circus tricks have been added to the curriculum.

But there is no clowning around for the students at Carrigaline Community School in Co Cork, where the aim is to teach skills that go beyond entertainment and performance.

The performance education module has been available to transition-year students since September, and teacher Daire Shaw had to turn down applications for some of the 24 places on the second running of it this term. “Juggling is a basic one we start everyone off with, but they also learn tightrope walking, unicycling, plate-spinning, and balancing things on their chins and noses,” he said.

The skills are also being taught to other groups after school, mainly taken up by first years, who were among a small group to show off their abilities in the town’s St Patrick’s Day parade last week. Among them was Simon Arregui, who walked through the town on stilts.

“It was difficult starting out but after a few days of practising, I was able to stay up on them for ages. I’ve really liked circuses since I was small, so when I found out there was a circus club at school, I had to join up.”

Cork pupils balance study with learning circus skills

Rhianna Rayner, another first-year, said friends asked her to join them back in the autumn, but she’s been continuing to go along since. “My favourite is the walking globe, I can stay up on it for quite a bit,” she said. The idea is to walk atop a rolling two-foot diameter plastic ball, another feat requiring balance, poise and patience.

Mr Shaw also believes it could be the basis for a short course for the planned reformed junior cycle, under which schools can design programmes to teach skills that meet key learning requirements. “They work in groups throughout the module, they design a show together and learn about what goes into making a production, and we also touch on characterisation and bringing humour.”

He has also integrated his performance skills into his physical education teaching. “I’ve brought circus skills in to build fundamental movement, things like catching and throwing that are the basics in many sports.”

READ MORE: Are arts degrees a waste of time?


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