Fourth Grade Circus

At three performances in March, students put on a polished show for a packed house, complete with unicycling, juggling, skits, songs, wire walking, and trapeze (and more!). Many months of physical preparation are obvious, but equally important is the collaboration and planning that have gone into students’ writing the various skits, imagining the set, and breaking down physical challenges into manageable pieces. A theme is chosen by the class each year and empowers students to be agents of change with the messages their give their audiences.

“All the children, teachers, and parents have come together for a common goal and they celebrate each other’s role in the circus. Isn’t this one of the best metaphors we could hope for our children to learn in life–each person working hard to be their best selves, supporting one another in our individual pursuits as part of a collective, cooperative process of the common goal called life.” – Parent Sue T.

Hear 4th Grade teachers Will Starr’s 2020 interview about the circus on BEN FM.

Background

Every year since 2003, PMFS’s Fourth Grade class, under the direction of Fourth Grade Teacher Will Starr, has performed in a circus. From unicycles and silks to tight-rope walking and juggling, the performance is filled with all sorts of traditional circus acts, but the acts go far beyond basics.

It all started in 1997 when Will felt that currently available math books left holes in Fourth Graders’ mathematical experience, so he wrote his own math curriculum staged within the context of a circus. Circus Math is used today alongside our school-wide math curriculum, Math in Focus. Times-tables are linked to the needs of acrobats and animals. Athletic skills are linked with mathematical insight when Will has kids calculate their running speed when jumping from one globe to another, or count the paces required to walk across a wire. Even physics concepts are explored with props like the diablo.

The Circus enhances the social-emotional component of the PMFS program. Fourth Graders are required to tend with great detail to both circus acts and the transitions between them as well as care for each other in visible ways. It is a delight to witness their friendships and an incredible ability to collaborate. These skills will benefit them in their remaining years at PMFS and as members of their future communities.