Juggling studies at Welchester

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Imagine learning to ride a unicycle, juggle, and walk on stilts while in elementary school.

Imagine learning to ride a unicycle, juggle, and walk on stilts while in elementary school. Twenty-eight students at Welchester Elementary in Golden don't need to use their imaginations: they live it!

The Circus Arts Club at Welchester was formed by Greg Aigner, a recently retired physical education teacher in the Jefferson County School District. In the past, he has helped establish Circus Arts Clubs at Swanson and Foster Elementary schools. He started the club to teach students lifelong physical activities and teamwork. The kids are also learning important life lessons such as patience, perseverance, balance, and creativity. The kids walk on stilts and globes. They jump on bouncing stilts and pogo sticks. They spin plates, ride clown bikes, and make balloon animals. They perform with angel sticks, bouncing a larger stick back and forth. They learn to use the Chinese yo-yo, nicknamed "the diablo" because it is devilishly hard to master. With extra practice and plenty of patience, they learn to juggle with scarves, bean bags, and eventually, balls.

In addition, the students are learning to ride the unicycle and the giraffe. The giraffe is an extra tall version of the unicycle.  Brennan Oaklief, a fifth grader, excels on both types. Brennan says "Besides the unicycle, I'm most interested in the bouncing stilts and the diablo."When you walk into the gymnasium, the energy and enthusiasm is infectious. Everyone is delighted to be part of the controlled chaos. As one student joked to another, "It's raining walking globes and bouncing stilts and we're tripping over unicyclists!"

Mr. Aigner hopes that with a great deal of practice, the club at Welchester will eventually be able to travel to different states and perform in parades as tall clowns. In October, the group went to see the Greatest Show on Earth! They experienced the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus performing the Fully Charged traveling show. Interestingly, ringmaster Brian Crawford Scott graduated with a degree in musical theatre from the University of Northern Colorado. The students were excited to see the things they are learning performed by professionals. They also loved watching the tight rope performers. The artists rode bikes, and balanced each other on their shoulders far above the crowd. Seeing the acrobats on bouncing stilts provided another thrill. They watched in amazement as twenty men and women in glow-in-the-dark costumes performed high-flying acrobatic stunts in the darkened arena. At least one student in the club has dreams of a career in the circus. As Brennan confided, "When I grow up I want to be a circus performer … or an inventor."