Fifth graders at Forest Avenue Elementary School in West Babylon traded dodgeballs for “devilsticks” Wednesday, part of the weeklong National Circus Project.
The educational outreach program involves circus professionals coming to schools and using the physical education period to teach moves one would see in a circus, such as balancing plates and juggling. On Friday night the fifth graders will put on a show with what they learned, with their family, friends and younger schoolmates as the audience.
On one end of the gym students balanced themselves on top of each other. On the other side, a group used small sticks to navigate a devilstick -- a baton -- as part of a passing routine.
Learning these circus skills helps the students outside of the gym, according to Lou Beekhuizen, a program specialist for the National Circus Project.
“It’s beneficial in so many ways,” Beekhuizen said. “Juggling helps reading and math, because you’re using both sides of the brain. It helps them concentrate.”
It also allows students to develop new friendships, because they’re working with students they might not normally work with.
“You really see the fifth graders coming together,” said physical education teacher Mike Royola, who has been teaching for 12 years. “They’re leaving on a good note.”
Each skill the students learn is determined by the specialists, Beekhuizen and Al Calienes, who goes by “Renaldo,” his clown name.
Amanda Linken, 11, a fifth grader and the vice president of the school, said she’s learned a few new moves on top of what she already knew from her gymnastics classes.
“I like when we do the ‘two man,’” she said, referring to the move when one person climbs on top of the other and stands on her shoulders.
She said this is a program that she and her peers can benefit from.
“They don’t have to sit and learn,” Amanda said. “They can do things kids want to do.”
Above: Because of their ability to pass the regular "devilstick" so well, Forest Avenue Elementary School fifth graders were given a bigger devilstick to pass to each other during the National Circus Project event at the West Babylon school. (March 21, 2012)