Anderson Valley Elementary School students are getting a special treat this summer, learning first-hand acrobatic techniques from members of Mendocino County’s Flynn Creek Circus.
Louise Simson, superintendent of Anderson Valley School District in Boonville, said ‘creating a fun and engaging summer program was a priority after students suffered two years of Covid-related losses in their lives’ .
Simson credited homeroom teacher Charlotte Triplett with the idea of partnering with Flynn Creek Circus, which was founded in 2002 by Blaze Birge and David Jones, and providing “students enrolled in the district from kindergarten to grade 7 a unique learning opportunity.
Simson said “the circus staff erected a tent on the grass of the back playground and teaches students for three weeks silk, trapeze and trampoline.”
When explaining why she felt such activities were important, Simson said, “Students need to find out their ‘why’ for coming to school. School is, of course, the place of learning, but it is also a place of relationships, motivation and art.
Flynn Creek Circus has been running such camps for about a decade, often in the town of Mendocino.
At a camp in 2016, Birge explained what it takes to become a circus performer as she watched around 60 children run around the tent she and her team set up in Mendocino’s Friendship Park.
“People think it’s all physical, you have to have the right body for it,” she said. “But really, it’s all in your head. Your head and your heart.
And while you can’t teach passion, you can teach some basic circus skills to almost anyone, even 6-year-olds. Just make it simple.
Want to climb a rope? Wrap the rope around one leg and make a “rope sandwich” with your feet, then use your legs as much as possible to pull the rope up.
Want to climb the Chinese pole? Use your “tiger paw,” which is a solid grip that activates your finger and forearm strength.
Although no camp attendee ever becomes a circus performer, Birge will consider the camps she and Jones organize to be successes.
“It’s our way of giving back to the community that supports us,” said Birge, who performs with Jones as the Daring Jones Duo. “That’s what inspires me, and I want to share that with people, because maybe it will inspire them too.”
Flynn Creek Circus is also on tour with its latest show, “Balloons, Birds and Other Flying Things”. Currently playing in Mendocino, the show is coming to Ukiah in mid-August. For more information, visit www.flynncreekcircus.com.