Volume 3, Issue 36 - May 27, 2007

"There is nothing quite like the thrill of taking children to a circus. The sense of awe as animals and artists perform for the approval of the audience is unparalleled in human experience. For many of us it is as close as we will get to exotic animals actually trained to perform on queue. Certainly we can see animals from all over the world at the zoo, or go on safari to see animals in the wild, but in neither case do we get to see them interact with humans as they do at the circus.

A circus study not only captures the imagination of students, it integrates nicely across the curriculum regardless of the time of year. Consider the possibilities for the study of not only animals, but cultures, history, math, physics, music, art, drama, economics, health and safety, just to name a few. Whether you teach primary or secondary students, the circus is a theme ripe with possibilities.

Of particular interest in any circus study will be an examination of the humane treatment of animals. For all the allure of showcasing exotic animals in a live show, there are many concerns and issues surrounding the care of circus animals. In most cases it is a study of how these majestic species are housed, fed, trained and transported. But there are those documented instances where the value of featuring an animal in a circus show took priority over the best interests of the animal. It’s a great opportunity for class discussion about personal and societal values.

With warm weather now here and summer vacation on the way, the circus is a great theme to capture students’ attention even as their minds start to wander ahead to the lazy days of summer. Think of the tie-ins you can create: a classroom circus where students take on the roles of different people and animals in the show, an academic circus where students perform feats of impressive cognitive skill or a grade-level or department circus where students compete in teams to review and celebrate all they have learned during the year. The possibilities are endless!

As you enjoy this well-deserved Memorial Day long weekend, I hope this week’s resources will awaken your creative juices and inspire you to culminate your year as the “greatest class on earth!!”

©2007 Walter McKenzie

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