Circus School of Arizona builds confidence and cognitive skills

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Circus schools are a great place for young kids to learn in a fun environment. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Rob McJannet take us inside a circus camp in Scottsdale that’s clowning around with a purpose.

TED SIMONS: THIS IS" "ARIZONA HORIZON." UP NEXT, WE'LL TALK ABOUT THE "SUMMER SLIDE."

TED SIMONS: THE CIRCUS IS MOSTLY ASSOCIATED WITH ENTERTAINMENT, BUT EDUCATION EXPERTS SAY THAT CIRCUS SKILLS ARE DEEPLY ROOTED IN MATH AND SCIENCE. AND, AS A RESULT, CIRCUS SCHOOLS ARE A GREAT PLACE FOR YOUNG KIDS TO LEARN IN A FUN ENVIRONMENT. PRODUCER SHANA FISCHER AND PHOTOGRAPHER ROB MCJANNET TAKE US INSIDE A CIRCUS CAMP IN SCOTTSDALE THAT'S CLOWNING AROUND WITH A PURPOSE.

BRIAN FOLEY: HOW DO WE WANT TO WARM OUR BODIES?

SHAUNA FISCHER: RUNNING.

BRIAN FOLEY: THIS WAY.

SHAUNA FISCHER: TWISTING.

SHAUNA FISCHER: STRETCHING.

BRIAN FOLEY: UP AND OVER!

SHAUNA FISCHER: CIRCUS CAMP IS IN SESSION.

SHAUNA FISCHER: INSTRUCTOR BRIAN FOLEY IS A CLOWN.

BRIAN FOLEY: DID YOU KNOW THAT THE MORE YOU JUGGLE, THE FASTER YOU'LL BE ABLE TO READ, AND THE MORE YOU'LL BE ABLE TO READ!

SHAUNA FISCHER: HE HAS SPENT MOST OF HIS LIFE AS A CLOWN WITH THEATER COMPANIES. AFTER GRADUATING NYU AND ASU, HE NOW TEACHES CIRCUS SKILLS TO KIDS LIKE SIMONE MCCAY.

SIMONE MCCAY: WE WERE LOOKING AT CAMPS. WE FOUND THE WEBSITE FOR CIRCUS CAMP. I NOTICED THEY WEAR DIFFERENT THINGS LIKE SILK, AND IT LOOKED FUN, SO I DECIDED TO GO.

SHAUNA FISCHER: CIRCUS CAMP IS THE BRAIN CHILD OF RACHEL STEGMAN

RACHEL STEGMAN: WHEN I WAS GROWING UP HERE IN ARIZONA, I DIDN'T REALLY HAVE ANYTHING THAT REALLY GRABBED ME. I TRIED A BUNCH OF THINGS AND NOTHING CLICKED. UNTIL I FOUND CIRCUS.

SHAUNA FISCHER: RACHEL DISCOVERED THE CIRCUMSTANCE WAS WHEN SHE WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD AND COULD NEVER GET IT OUT OF HER HEAD. FOR HER, IT'S MORE THAN PERFORMING.

RACHEL STEGMAN: IT'S THERAPEUTIC. IT BROUGHT UP MY MOOD IN THE PAST FROM DEPRESSION. WITHOUT CIRCUS, I DON'T KNOW WHERE I WOULD BE. IT'S BASICALLY SAVED MY LIFE.

SHAUNA FISCHER: SHE OPENED THE CIRCUS SCHOOL IN 2007. IT'S A WAY TO COMBAT SUMMER LEARNING LOSS, A LOSS OF SIGNIFICANT MATERIAL LEARNED DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR.

SHAUNA FISCHER: THE AMOUNT VARIES AMONG GRADES AND SOCIO ECONOMIC LEVEL. MOST SCHOOLS ESTIMATE KIDS LOSE TWO MONTHS OF MATH SKILLS IN THE SUMMER. WITH CIRCUS SCHOOL, KIDS LEARN PHYSICAL FEATS, BUT ALSO STEM KNOWLEDGE.

RACHEL STEGMAN: THERE IS SO MUCH INVOLVED IN THE CIRCUS. THE APPARATUS AND BODY POSITIONS AND MOTIONS AND ALL OF THAT. EVEN DOWN TO THE RIGGING.

SHAUNA FISCHER: RACHEL AND THE OTHER INSTRUCTORS USE PHYSICS AND GEOMETRY TERMS TO HELP STUDENTS UNDERSTAND LEG PLACEMENT. SIMONE IS TEN YEARS OLD AND HAS GAINED AN UNDERSTANDING OF ANGLES.

SIMONE MCCAY: YOU HAVE TO PUT YOUR KNEE AT A CERTAIN ANGLE. AND YOU HAVE TO DECIDE IF YOU WANT YOUR KNEES TO BE ACUTE OR OBTUSE DEPENDING ON THE TRICK YOU WANT TO DO.

SHAUNA FISCHER: RACHEL SAYS THAT CIRCUS SKILLS CAN HELP KIDS WHO LEARN DIFFERENTLY.
RACHEL STEGMAN: I HAD A REAL HARD TIME BECAUSE I HAD PROBLEMS WITH ADD AND THOSE KINDS OF THINGS. I WAS A HANDS ON LEARNER AND HAD A HARD TIME JUST SITTING. THE ONLY WAY I WOULD LEARN THINGS IS BY DOING IT.

SHAUNA FISCHER: THE INSTRUCTORS FOCUS NOT ONLY ON COGNITIVE SKILLS, BUT BUILDING SELF CONFIDENCE IN THE CAMPERS, WHICH CAN CONTRIBUTE TO BETTER PERFORMANCE IN ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE.

RACHEL STEGMAN: I THINK IT'S EMPOWERING, AND PEOPLE FEEL, THEY FEEL LIKE THEY ARE DOING THINGS THAT ARE GRAVITY-DEFYING. THEY SEEM TO BE HUMANLY NOT POSSIBLE.

SIMONE MCCAY: IT FEELS GOOD ON THE QUAD TRAPEZE WHEN WE DID THIS TRICK. I FELT LIKE AN OLYMPIC TRAPEZE ARTIST.

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