"What makes a subject fit for the higher curriculum is surely no novelty: It is that it shall enlighten all the corners of the mind and teach its own uses."
- Jacques Barzun

Circus Across the Curriculum is a program designed to enhance the Circus of the Kids experience by integrating circus-related materials into various classroom subjects. A series of idea books for teachers, it provides a starting point for developing lesson plans around a circus theme.

The program was developed by Elizabeth and James Carter, circus aficionados and professors at the University of Louisville. In use for many years, the program has been enthusiastically received by educators because of its great success in motivating students academically. As shown below, it covers a broad spectrum of topics, from history and literature to mathematics and the sciences.*

SECTION 1. Reading - Literature - Circus Lore

    This section refers to short essays/notes by authors such as Charles Dickens, Carl Sandburg, E.B. White, Will Rogers, James Whitcomb Riley, Alfredo Codona, Art Buchwald, and John Masefield on topics ranging from Ernest Hemingway's ability to communicate with bears and the timing of a triple somersault to the "witchery" of clowns.
SECTION 2. Expository and Creative Writing
    This section consists principally of sample writing assignments on circus themes. Among the resources in this section are a number of brief epigrams that can serve as the bases for writing assignments with a circus focus: for example, "Clowns are pegs, used to hang circuses on" (P.T. Barnum), "You can shake the sawdust out of your shoes, but you can't shake it out of your heart" (Cecil B. DeMille), "A circus is a bright, spangled girl with a date in a town a hundred miles away tomorrow morning" (F. Beverly Kelley).
SECTION 3. Mathematics - Science
    The descriptions of the circus in this section are designed to help teachers make up problems in mathematics and science that involve the circus and illustrate important principles in those disciplines: problems for example, involving such things as circus tents and riggings, the movement of circus acrobats and aerialists, and types of tickets and seating. The photographs of the setting up of a modern (Vidbel's "Olde Tyme") tented circus found in Section 6 ("Other Resources") are likewise meant to serve as sources of such data.
SECTION 4. History - Geography - Social Science
    This section refers to a number of articles dealing with the history and development of the American circus, with circus routing and logistics, with the family and social lives of circus performers. The section includes a time line juxtaposing important dates in American history with important (or at least interesting) dates in the history of the American circus. Topics for discussion and/or research and sample assignments are provided.
SECTION 5. Performing and Fine Arts
    This section discusses the circus's claim to be regarded as "an expression of art" and identifies works of art dealing with the circus by artists such as John Steuart Curry, Pablo Picasso, W.H. Brown, Alexander Calder, and Charles Hammond. A number of sample assignments are also provided. The photographs and postcards of works of art related to circus found in Section 6 ("Other Resources") are copies of the works identified in this section.
SECTION 6. Other Resources
  • Bibliographies of works on circus.
  • Glossary of circus terms and lingo.
  • Photographs and postcards of works of art focusing on circus.
  • Route cards from the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus, 1987.
  • Arrows used to guide circus personnel from location to location.
  • Photographs of the setting up of Vidbel's Olde Tyme Circus, 1987.
  • The Circus Fans Association of America: list of members living in your home state.
  • A list of circuses currently in operation.
  • Circus School Kit prepared by Circus World Museum, Baraboo, Wisconsin.
  • Sample word search involving circus terms (Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus 1987) and 4 Paw's Puzzle Book for Children Of All Ages (Adam Forepaugh Shows, 1892).


* Circus Across the Curriculum materials are available only to our sponsor schools.


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