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Study: Circus Arts Improve Student Learning Skills

The results of a year-long education study are in, and show that integrating the circus arts into K-12 education can improve student performance.

Nationwide, circus programs improved social and emotional learning skills in all areas measured.

Conducted by the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, the study observed children in school residency programs offered by Circus Smirkus and seven other circus arts providers across America.

The study asked a simple question: Do the circus arts improve Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills in schools?

“Circus arts delivered results measurably better than the comparison group composed of a wide range of school arts and sports activities.”

The answer is a resounding “yes.”

The Weikart study tested for improvement in the areas of teamwork, initiative, empathy, responsibility, emotional management, and problem solving – all key components of social and emotional learning. Individually and collectively, all of these traits have been linked to improved student performance.

Most notably, circus arts delivered results measurably better than the comparison group composed of a wide range of school arts and sports activities.

The study, launched by the American Youth Circus Organization, was funded by Cirque du Soleil and the James E and Diane W Burke Foundation. Final results will be published in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Circus arts require the same dedication and discipline of any sport, but circus arts stress collaboration, creativity, problem-solving, and cooperation over competition. Integrating the circus arts into the school curriculum has been proven to enhance student learning, while helping teachers meet core standards requirements in a fun, creative school environment.

This fall, Smirkus will continue expanding its residency work by teaming with teachers at the Winooski School District, educational consultants, and members of the Vermont Arts Council to help integrate circus arts into the classroom. A ten-week pilot program with a circus artist in residency will apply our lessons learned to develop tools that help students navigate self-directed learning and teachers evaluate their creative work.

Funded by the Flexibly Pathways grant program of the Vermont Agency of Education, the residency work done by Circus Smirkus and its partners will then ensure these tools are available to schools and residency artists all across the state.

Across Vermont and America, education is changing fast.  And we’re proud to say Circus Smirkus is leading the parade.