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Freeport 'circus' helps kids make the grade

Franklin Rodriguez, left, Gabriel Quiroa, and Angel Avendano,

Franklin Rodriguez, left, Gabriel Quiroa, and Angel Avendano, demonstrate their newly learned clown skills. As part of a four-week summer program at the New Visions School in Freeport, first graders have been studying the all aspects of a circus from performers and animals to food and travel. As a culmination to the program, students will bring their studies to life as they perform clown skits, recite circus poetry, and present acts of tumbling, juggling and dancing. (July 28, 2011) Credit: Ed Betz

The circus came to Freeport on Thursday -- just not the one most are used to.

The stars were all first-graders at New Visions School, and the performance was the culmination of a four-week voluntary summer school program where the students studied all aspects of the circus. The program, which is 10 years old, uses fun themes to teach subjects like math and social studies.

“We hit all discipline areas [while] teaching about the circus,” said Mimi Bino, the principal of the summer school program. “It’s just a great theme that is a springboard for all curriculum areas.”

New Visions, one of Freeport's first magnet schools, opened in 1995 and has a theme for each grade during summer school. While first-graders focus on the circus, for example, kindergarteners are going under the sea.

Jill Hayden, a first-grade teacher at the school, says the theme-based education works. For science, her students studied animals in captivity and in the wild, and for social studies they learned about circus transportation.

“I think they learned an enormous amount, more than I even expected,” Hayden said. “Summer school is a great way for kids to really and truly just enjoy education. And it works really well for these little guys.”

Photo: Franklin Rodriguez, left, Gabriel Quiroa and Angel Avendano practice their clown skills during a four-week summer program at the New Visions School, where first-graders have been studying all aspects of a circus. (July 28, 2011)

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