Extension Circus Arts Program
The Extension Circus Arts (ECA) program has been running at Canning Vale College for the past 8 years. The greatest and most visible aspect of the program is the Act Belong Commit CVC Circus Troupe but this is only 1 part of the 4 tiers that make up the wonderful ECA program.
Entry to the program begins with an audition either at the beginning of the year or in late July; if a child is successful in gaining a place within the program they are then streamed into one of the 2 performance tiers, either the Junior Training program, or the Senior Performance program, and at present we have over 80 children engaged in these 2 tiers. Both streams give the students involved an excellent opportunity to develop their skill, work with others, and perform on stage. These programs are run after school hours on Mondays and Wednesdays for up to 2 hours, not including multiple afternoons and evening shows that the students stage each term.
The next part of the ECA program is run during school hours, with the children involved undertaking circus classes in years 7 to 10, then the Certificate 2 in Creative Industries in year 11 and 12. Having all the students involved in each year group focused into 1 class has allowed these students to excel as a whole, as well as take on much more challenging programs during class hours. The Certificate 2 in Creative Industries offers the students involved a comprehensive overview of the live production industry and gives them experience in script writing, stage management, production development, lighting and directing.
Lastly the ECA program runs a volunteer enrichment space every recess and lunchtime in the circus area, which allows students to further develop their skills in a non-structured, peer supported environment.
The ECA program is run by 3 teachers, who have volunteered their time to support the students through their learning journey each week; the amazing Varina Earle, Marisa Scidone and myself, Crystle Challinger.
In 2018, Circus Coordinator Crystle Challinger was crowned Australian VET Trainer of the Year 2018. Miss Challinger was the only secondary education teacher to be nominated for or win an award at both state and national level. To win the award when up against TAFE, University and Registered Training Organisations is an absolutely incredible achievement and a real testament to her dedication to VET programs in Creative Industries for students at CVC.
I feel one of the most important parts to understand about this program is that it is less about circus skills and more about supporting student progression through the educational, emotional, social and physical aspects of their lives. Circus gives students involved a chance to express themselves in a safe and fun environment. The very nature of Circus provides an opportunity for children in which failure doesn’t exist as every mistake is viewed as a chance to try again through discovery learning.
The program directly benefits CVC students and the 3 teachers involved, with the major outcomes for the participants that have arisen from the introduction of the program include:
- The uncompromisingly positive nature of the program and its effect on the emotional outlook of the participants involved.
- The ability of the program to allow all children to ‘fit in’ and feel part of the school and community.
- The dramatic positive effect on overall behaviour of the students in the course.
- Improved perseverance skills from the students and teachers.
- Goal setting skills have been dramatically improved.
- Non-competitive engagement in physical activity for the participants.
- Mentoring, Peer support, and cooperative learning skills dramatically improved for both students and teachers.
- Students developing very important Self Directed learning skills, which is the ability to devise, implement, respond, and reflect on their own learning. The kids in this program show dramatic improvement in their ability to decide and judge options in all areas of their education.
- Developing skills to effectively negotiate learning choices
- Great improvement in self-esteem.
To help with the learning process, the students involved not only have chance to learn from exceptional professional circus performers but also view incredible circus shows. This year alone students have experienced classes from Gee Gee from Cirque Du Soleil (France), Rowan Thomas from Elixir Circus (Melbourne), Flick Tate from Upside Down Circus (Melbourne), Tara Boom from Melbourne, Luke Forrester from London, and Kate Wells from Perth. Additionally the students have been guests at each Cirque Du Soleil show that opens in Perth for the past couple of years.
The ECA program has had the amazing support of Act Belong Commit for the past 6 years. Without this support, the opportunities on offer through this program would not be possible. The Act Belong Commit CVC Circus Troupe has been able to use the Act Belong Commit support to develop circus stage shows with positive health messages for local primary schools, rural district schools, nursing homes, charity, fundraising, and community events. Some of the student’s achievements include being involved in multiple children foundation events such as Kirrabilli Children’s Organisation, Parkerville, Princess Margaret Hospital, Telethon, the RAC Christmas Pageants, The Kid’s Big Day out with Joseph Aston Circus, as well as many stage performance events including The WA Education Awards, The City of Perth’s Halloween Stage Show, and The Perth Fringe World Festival. The Act Belong Commit CVC Circus Troupe also get to showcase their skills for thousands of Primary School students each year through their metro and rural school tours, which sees the students perform at up to 10 different metro and rural schools each year. In the past the Act Belong Commit CVC Circus Troupe have performed in Corrigin, Kulin, Brookton, Pinjarra, Pemberton, Lanechin, York, and Donnybrooke.
Lastly one of the best opportunities the ECA program gives to the students is the opportunity to showcase their skills and train on our large-scale tours. So far our students have performed at Disneyland and Universal Studios California, taken workshops at the Los Angeles Circus School, performed and run workshops on Coco’s Keeling Islands, undertook a week of training at the National Institute of Circus (NICA) and Circus OZ in Melbourne, performed at Dreamworld Queensland and taken workshops at Flipside Circus Brisbane.
All of this experience have helped a large number of graduates enter a career in the performing arts, including student placements at NICA, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), multiple entrants to WAAPA programs, and even students undertaking circus programs in Canada for entry to Cirque Du Soleil.
And it is such an honour to be part of this programs success!
Miss Crystle Challinger