American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) Biennial Meeting

American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) Biennial Meeting

The American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) Biennial Meeting was August 17-20 in sweltering 95o, 95% humidity Sarasota, FL with no air conditioning, but the 300 kids from all over the US who worked their butts off from dawn to dusk were not deterred in the least by the heat and humidity.  They were having the time of their lives.

BDL Conference Organizer, Adele Diamond, went to AYCO Meeting to learn about Youth Circus.

Circus Harmony of St. Louis, Missouri, says that youth circus “teaches the art of life through circus education. We work to build character and expand community for youth of all ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds. Through teaching and performance of circus skills, we help people defy gravity, soar with confidence and leap over social barriers, all at the same time.”

Amazing Grace Circus of Nyack, NY says youth circus is about building “Confidence. Imagination. Respect. Cooperation. Understanding. & Success” (CIRCUS).     
“Their mission is to offer youth the opportunity to…develop positive relationships using circus arts as the common bridge of communication and cooperation among diverse communities…To give teens the opportunity to build their self-esteem, learn how to cooperate, support and challenge each other to excel, and learn how to promote the use of their imaginations.”

If addressing all parts of the child is critical for children to excel in school and in life, then might programs like youth circus be important for academic success?

Interventions shown to Aid Executive Function Development in Children 4-12 Years Old

What will children need to be successful? What programs are successfully helping children develop those skills in the earliest school years? What do those programs have in common?

See a new article by the BDL Conference Organizer, Dr. Adele Diamond, in the foremost science journal, Science.

Link to the article

Link to SOM (Supporting Online Material)

from the article:

“Four of the qualities that will probably be key to success are creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline. Children will need to think creatively to devise solutions never considered before. They’ll need working memory to mentally work with masses of data, seeing new connections among elements. They’ll need flexibility to appreciate different perspectives and take advantage of serendipity. They’ll need self-control to resist temptations, and avoid doing something they’d regret. Tomorrow’s leaders will need to have the discipline to stay focused, seeing tasks through to completion. All of those qualities are ‘executive functions’ (EFs),”

“The best approaches to improving EFs and school outcomes will probably be those that (a) engage students’ passionate interests, bringing them joy and pride, (b) address stresses in students’ lives, attempting to resolve external causes and strengthen calmer, healthier responses, (c) have students vigorously exercise, and (d) give students a sense of belonging and social acceptance, in addition to giving students opportunities to repeatedly practice EFs at progressively more-advanced levels. The most effective way to improve EFs and academic achievement is probably not to focus narrowly on those alone, but to also address children’s emotional and social development (as do all 4 curricular-based programs that improve EFs) and children’s physical development (aerobics, martial arts, and yoga).”

SENSE Theatre: Helping Children with Autism through Theater

SENSE Theatre is an intervention program for children with autism. It is a bridge between art and science, utilizing well-established behavioral intervention, peer and video modeling, and theatrical techniques. It has met with remarkable success with children in northern California. We would like to see if it might be helpful to children here, in Vancouver.

A week before our conference, the Developer and Executive Director of SENSE Theatre (Blythe Corbett, a clinician and neuroscientist at the MIND Institute of the University of California – Davis, who before becoming an academic was a professional actor), along with the Stage Director and Musical Director, will come up to Vancouver to work with local children with autism and local child actors for a solid week. The children will then put on the performance they have been rehearsing for us at the Gala Dinner for the conference, Sunday evening, July 18, at 7:00 pm.

Here is a video that explains a little bit more about the great work that SENSE Theatre is doing: