Prescott Circus: “Don’t Clown Us”

Children Learn Science and Math Related to Circus Acts

Students from Prescott and Lafayette Circus Arts programs pose for a picture during the Oakland Holiday Parade lat week. From left to right: First row – Andrew Musinguzi, Kevin Romero, Devin Nicholson, Walter Richardson, Anderson Montoya, Eli Lopez, Nicholas Lopez; Second row – Bryan Morales, Frizell Drivers, Nautical Reed-Gegg, Dejamelyah Tyler, Sontaneec Garza, Lelani Walker, Zaymon Thomas; Third row – Jose Barrera, Joshua Anderson, Carmen Shaw, Douglas Brooks, Pugna Som, Maurice Patton, Trinity Gibson, La’Niyah Ambrose, Shaela McCray; Fourth row – Nicole Funes, Jessica Funes, Keinan Woodson; Fifth row – Quiana Driver (Board member), DeMarcello Funes (staff), Tatiana Thomas, Esperanza Funes, Lee Hill, Jeremy Anderson, Yaqueline Verasques, Angelina Boggs, Yasmin Millett, and Ceara Walton (staff). Note: The Board member and both staff members in the photo were all Prescott Clowns as children.

Prescott Circus Theatre boasts some of Oakland’s most energetic young stars. This month 30 young performers knocked the holiday socks off of the crowds at the Oakland Holiday Parade as jugglers, unicyclists, stilt walkers, and acrobats. “This is the largest contingent we’ve ever put together,” said Prescott Circus Theatre Director David Hunt.  “We wanted to show our Oakland love. Plus this was a chance for many of our newer students to experience the excitement of public performing.” What began in 1985 as an after-school club at Prescott Elementary School has grown into a citywide youth development model.  Third- through fifth-grade students from Prescott, Lafayette, Parker, Laurel, Piedmont Avenue, and Manzanita Elementary Schools work with real circus professionals to build their skills. Prescott Circus performers were recently seen at holiday events for the Lend A Hand Foundation, the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, Dance-a-Vision, and the Alameda County Foster Parent Association, as well as the Hotel Oakland’s 100th Anniversary bash. But they’re not just clowning around.  To become performers, students have to grow in many ways, including everything from planning ahead and multi-tasking to assessing risks and taking chances. The skills develop in a context where students know they are part of a caring family of support, affectionately captured in the motto, “Once a Prescott Clown, Always a Prescott Clown.” The Prescott Circus is currently piloting a new project to further support academic success through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). A group of Prescott Circus performers meet twice a week on a Circus Work with Science curriculum.  The performers can teach you how to juggle beanbags while explaining what bones, muscles, and joints are contributing to the effort. If you prefer scarf juggling, they’ll tell you about the effect of air resistance on your progress. These students are busily making line graphs to chart their progress at skills like headstands and balancing acts, using the working hypothesis that “the more you practice the better you get!” When youth use the phrase “Don’t clown me” it means don’t laugh or make fun of me. Now when you hear a Prescott clown “Get down with Algebra,” you will know they are studying hard to become high achievers, not just clowning around. The Prescott Circus prepares their clowns to get down with science and to be ready for life. “The special hook for this project is that the students will actually get to perform their findings, sharing what they’re learning about science,” said project leader and Prescott Circus founder Aileen Moffitt. “We will be presenting at a special conference for teachers in February and look forward to visiting other schools, too.” Prescott principal Enomwoyi Booker has invited the group to share the Science of Circus project at an upcoming STEM meeting for school administrators and other West Oakland stakeholders. The Prescott Circus needs community support.  Contact the circus to find out more about upcoming events and a friendraiser/fundraiser brunch in the works for March. Organizers of upcoming events can hire the Prescott Circus Theatre to provide roving entertainment, single acts, or full shows to suit their needs. For information call (510) 967-0355 or email info@prescottcircus.org. To make a tax-deductible donation to the Prescott Circus Theatre, visit www.prescottcircus.org and click the “Donate” button on the bottom right corner.
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