Summer 2014 Tours Scheduled

Posted by – February 15, 2014

Paul can't wait to share the science of juggling and skill toys this summer. His Summer Reading Performance Fall, Balance, and Spin: A Juggler's Tale will connect to the CSLP theme Fizz, Boom, Read! Throughout the show, he will tell a story that encourages families to use the library to answer questions and discover new skills. The summer calendar is filling up quickly, but we do still have openings left on the following regional tours:

Summer 2014 Week of May 26 - Louisiana Week of June 2 - Gulf Shores area of Alabama Week of June 9 - North and South Carolina Week of June 16 - North Carolina Week of June 23 & 30 - Northeast Tour (PA, NY, NJ, CT, MA) Week of July 7 - N/A Week of July 14 - Virginia Week of July 21 & 28 - North and South Carolina Week of August 4 & 11 - Northeast Tour (PA, NY, NJ, CT, MA)

Hands-on tween/teen workshops are also available which will allow participants to experience the science of juggling and skill toys first hand. Visit FlowCircus.com/library to learn more about our programs or check out our Video Gallery to see how Paul has connected to the CSLP theme in past summers.

December Book: The App Generation

Posted by – December 15, 2013

  Last week, we had the opportunity to see a talk by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis about their new book The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World. Those of you that work in formal and informal education are probably familiar with Gardner’s earlier research including his Theory of Multiple Intelligences and work with Project Zero (if not, click on the links provided to learn more). In this current work, Gardner and Davis set out to examine how texting, tweeting, Facebook, and other technology trends have impacted the first generation of digital natives. Through various data driven research methodologies, they have drawn several interesting conclusions.
  • Characteristics of the current generation of youth: more risk-averse, have a discomfort with ambiguity, more accepting of a range of identities, hyper-connected with parents. The researchers do acknowledge that these characteristics may have been influenced by variables other than technology use.
  • Today’s youth see their lives as a string of ordered apps or as a single, extended cradle-to-grave app (a “super-app”)

  • There is a prevailing attitude that whatever humans want should be provided by apps (a fast on-demand shortcut). If the app doesn’t exist, it should be created right away by someone. If no app can be imagined, then the desire must not matter.

  • The authors draw a distinction between apps that are app-enabling (ones that allow or encourage us to pursue new possibilities) vs. app-dependent (ones that restrict or determine our procedures, choices, or goals).

  • The research looks at the impact of app-enabling vs. app-dependent on three main areas: identity formation, intimacy, and imaginative powers. For example, apps can help an individual form a stronger, more powerful identity or result in a pre-packaged, superficial identity.
  • They state, Whether we can go on to fulfill our full potential in these spheres, to take advantage of apps (“enabling”) without being programmed by them (“dependent”), remains a formidable challenge.

  • They challenge app designers to enable users (not create dependence) and challenge parents/teachers to model using apps in an enabling way.
In our own work with tweens/teens and the educators that serve them, we have observed some of these same trends. But we’ve also seen that when introduced to a hands-on challenge such as learning to juggle, the phones go away and the teens work through the steps to mastering the task. In that way, juggling and skill toys are object-enabling because it encourages players to pursue new possibilities.

November Book/TED talk: Brene Brown & Daring Greatly

Posted by – November 3, 2013

This month, we want to share with you the work of Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work who has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Dawn first stumbled upon Brown’s TED talks last year and immediately ordered and read her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (2012). Last month, Dawn also had the opportunity to see Brown speak at the Emerging Women Live Conference in Boulder, Colorado. Brown’s engaging storytelling captivates audiences as she authentically shares her research and her own struggle with vulnerability. If you watch the TED videos, be ready to laugh, but at the same time be ready to get hit in the gut as she holds up a mirror to aspects of ourselves we normally try to shield. It will be impossible to try to encapsulate her work in one blog post, but here are a few ideas that still resonate with us and relate to our work. Brown’s research points to the fact that as humans we are wired for connection, but that we can’t have that connection without vulnerability. As a culture, we tend to equate vulnerability with weakness and most of us try to protect ourselves from it with various forms of psychological armor. One result of all that armor is disengagement. “Disengagement is the issue underlying the majority of problems I see in families, schools, communities, and organizations, and it takes many forms…We disengage to protect ourselves from vulnerability, shame, and feeling lost and without purpose.” As teachers, parents, employers, and business people, the gap between our practiced values (what we’re actually doing, thinking, and feeling) and our aspirational values (what we want to do, think, and feel) leads to what she calls the “disengagement divide.” But we need to engage, because as she identifies in her talk, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” To bridge this gap, we need to embrace vulnerability, have the courage to be imperfect, and normalize that discomfort. I know, easier said than done! As we reflected on Brown’s ideas, we realized that when we take groups of kids or adults through the process of learning to juggle, we provide an opportunity to experience this discomfort in a playful way. If you’ve ever tried to learn how to juggle, you know that it isn’t pretty at first. You drop a lot, feel uncoordinated, and might just be a little bit worried about how silly you look. But you are engaged! When we teach, we encourage learners to look at the drops not as something to be embarrassed about, but as information to learn from. We model looking silly and being imperfect so that the learners can find humor in their own process. We provide honest, constructive, and engaged feedback throughout their learning. Hopefully, we make learners feel a little more comfortable with the messiness so that they are more open to experiencing it again in other aspects of their life.  

Flow Circus Skill Toy Museum: 19th Century Diabolo

Posted by – October 30, 2013

            The latest featured item from the Flow Circus Skill Toy Museum* is a 19th Century diabolo. Many of you have played with a yo-yo. Now imagine a bigger yo-yo that can actually come off the string. Players move two hand sticks connected by a string in order to get the toy to spin. Once spinning, it can fly off the string, jump over body parts, and do other tricks. Some players even juggle two or three on one string. This museum item tells the story of cultural exchange and adaptation. To the right is a different version of the toy know as the Chinese yo-yo. We do not know when the Chinese yo-yo was first played or who invented it, but a Chinese poet names Cao Zhi wrote an ode to the toy during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280 AD). He described the toy, how it played, and the whistling sound it made when spinning. People in China still played with the toy hundreds of years later. The journals of Englishmen like Lord George Earl Macartney and French missionaries that traveled to China from the late 1700s contained drawings and written descriptions of the toy. The Europeans changed the design of the toy and it became a huge hit in England and France. People in France formed special clubs such as Le Diabolo Club and it became a status symbol for adults to play. Even Napolean and his son were known to get the diabolo spinning. The diabolo from our museum is from this time period. It still maintains the style of play of the Chinese yo-yo and the hole to allow for air flow and the whistling sound. But you can see the adaptations the Europeans made to the design. It only had a brief rise to popularity at this time, but will resurge again in the early 1900s. We have acquired diabolos from that period and we will tell that story at another time. For now we want to address the question of the name diabolo. As the tag that came with the toy indicates, some people are thought to have called the toy the "devil on two sticks" because of the challenge the toy poses. Others believe the name comes from two Greek words: dia (across) and ballo or bollo (to toss or throw). This seems to make sense since the toy does get "tossed across." Either way, we love that this toy created a common language of play between cultures. *The museum doesn't physically exist yet, but we have been collecting vintage skill toys over the last few years and wanted to start sharing them on our blog.

October Book of the Month: Growth Mindset

Posted by – October 2, 2013

We've been busy doing research in areas of positive psychology, motivation, and other related fields to better explain the outcomes of our tween/teen and adult programs. We realized that the books we have been reading and TED talks we have been watching might also be beneficial to those of you that are educators, parents, program evaluators, and grant writers. So we are kicking off a regular feature on our blog - a featured book or TED talk. The first in our series is Growth Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (2006), a researcher in the fields of personality, social and developmental psychology at Stanford University. In this book, she asserts that when approaching challenge, our mindset plays a critical role in the outcome. She explains that a person with a fixed mindset believes that performance is based on one's natural abilities and therefore they see no reason for putting effort into improving. When challenged a person with a fixed mindset will give up, retreat to own comfort zone, and blame others for performance. On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset wants to learn at all costs and believes that the harder she works, the better she will be. Growth mindset focuses effort on improving, capitalizes on mistakes as part of the learning process, and confronts deficiencies head-on. As a result, someone with a growth mindset faces challenges with enjoyment, confidence, and improved performance. We can probably all identify tweens/teens and colleagues that fit into both of these. Where do you fall? The good news is that it's not too late - people can shift mindset. In the book, Dweck draws on examples from sports, business, and education and provides suggestions for helping to make this shift. More current research on resilience and grit reference the work of Dweck. As many of you that have attended our conference workshops or staff trainings know, Flow Circus teaches juggling and skill toys. But for us, it's not about training future circus stars. Reading through Dweck's work helped us to identify one of the less tangible outcomes of our programs. By recognizing that the process of learning to juggle takes effort, struggle and persistence, emphasizing that all players learn at different paces, and encouraging players to look for new strategies to solve problems, our programs support the development of a growth mindset. An essential step that we build into the process of learning to juggle is letting the balls drop. Dropping isn't failing, instead it provides critical information about the next steps to take in mastering new tricks. When a player says, "I can't do it," we encourage her to add the word "yet" at the end of the sentence. "I can't do it, yet" means that with time, instruction, and effort, it can be done. It's a subtle difference, but that one word can help to shift the player to developing a growth mindset and a can-do attitude for future endeavors.

From the Flow Circus Skill Toy Museum: Flores Yo-Yo

Posted by – October 1, 2013

Starting this month, we are going to bring you a featured item from the Flow Circus Skill Toy Museum. The museum doesn't physically exist yet, but we have been collecting vintage skill toys over the last few years and wanted to start sharing them. The first item captures the story of a toy and an entrepreneur. The yo-yo has a long rich history dating back as far as 500 BC. Vases from Ancient Greece depict children playing with the toy and a few terra cotta yo-yos from that time still exist. The yo-yo was played on several continents throughout its history, but this story of this yo-yo starts in the Philippines. In 1915, Pedro Flores came to the United States from the Philippines at the age of 16. He attended college and started law school, but dropped out and moved to Santa Barbara, California. He worked a variety of odd jobs, but ended up working as a bellhop. During his lunch breaks, he began demonstrating a toy that he had played with as a child. In the Philippines, the yo-yo or "come-come" in the Filipino language of Tagalog, was carved out of wood and very popular with children. He started to sense there might be a market and started a business. The Lucky Collector's Guide to 20th Century Yo-Yos: History & Values quotes Flores as saying " I do not expect to make a million dollars, I just want to be working for myself. I have been working for other people for practically all my life and I don't like it." In 1928, he started the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company and carved a dozen yo-yos by hand. Within a year, he was able to increase production and create several different versions. The prices ranged from 15 cents to $1.50. For the next few years he grew the business by hosting yo-yo spinning contests in theaters and coining the slogan, If it isn't a Flores, it isn't a yo-yo. In the early 1930s, entrepreneur Donald Duncan learned about the yo-yo and bought Flores' business for $250,000 (during the Depression!) Flores stayed on with Duncan promoting the yo-yo with demonstrations and contests which helped to make the Duncan yo-yo the brand we still see in stores today. Above are pictures of our Flores yo-yo. We don't have an exact date, but we know it was made between 1928-1932.

Summer 2013 Recap

Posted by – September 5, 2013

                    The results for Summer Reading Program 2013 are in: Flow Circus performed 122 Dig into Reading shows and conducted 15 tween/teen workshops in just 11 weeks! We visited 8 states from Alabama to Connecticut. Our home state of North Carolina hosted us for the largest number of programs with Pennsylvania coming in a close second. We were invited to visit many new libraries this summer as well as return to some of our favorites from past summers. To see more photos from Paul's Can You Dig It show, visit our Photo Gallery. Special thanks to all of the libraries that hosted us this summer. Here's some of the feedback we have been hearing:

A most exciting, high-energy show which was engaging and entertaining and educational all at one time, and equally entertaining for adults and children. Paul added a lot of humor, enlisted volunteers from the audience, and provided 45 minutes of continuous, high-quality fun! Barbara McNutt, Upper Dublin Public Library, Fort Washington, PA

You guys put the pro in professional and the f in fun. Your pre-show contact and information is always spot on and your follow up is the best of any performer I've worked with hands down. Your continued exploration of new areas and new ways of reaching children with your art speaks volumes of your dedication and determination. I hope to see Flow Circus again and again and again for many years to come. Jess Willis, Florence County Library, Florence, SC

By talking about how he used the library to learn how to do what he does, Paul makes using the library a fun and cool thing to do! I'm sure I'll have a rush on my juggling books and that's great! Stefanie Kellum, Kernersville Branch Library, Kernersville, NC

Thank you very much for coming to Broome County Public Library tonight. Your show inspired my daughter to start juggling. She grabbed 3 plastic bags as soon as we arrived home. She hopes to "one day be as great as Paul." Comment on our Facebook page.

Took the kids to the England Run Library yesterday for a free magic show. And to be honest I wasn't expecting much just something to entertain the kids for at least 45 minutes. To my surprise the show was AMAZING. Paul is AWESOME. Can't wait to work out details to have you at our school... Comment on our Facebook page.

In addition to library programs, Flow Circus impacted summer campers throughout the East Coast with staff trainings, Juggling and Skill Toy Kits, as well as performances. Below is a fun shot taken after our Juggling 101 Staff Training at Cary Academy Summer Quest in May.

We have already had folks asking about Summer 2014. At this point we are only booking camp staff trainings and large tours of 10 library shows or more (2 tours already booked!) We will let you know when we start scheduling individual library shows later this fall. Visit FlowCircus.com for more information about all of our programs.

Getting Ready for Summer 2013!

Posted by – March 25, 2013

Performer Paul Miller has been busy creating his new Summer Reading Program library show for 2013. For many this summer's CSLP theme, Dig into Reading, will send people down into the dirt. Paul, on the other hand, will dig deeper at his library to uncover new adventures. Below is a brief description:

Can You Dig It? Performer Paul Miller of Flow Circus takes us back to one memorable summer when his eccentric uncle comes to visit. Unlike any other adult Paul knows, his uncle opens up an exciting, new world of play through stories, books, juggling, magic, and more. More importantly, he encourages Paul not just to copy what others are doing, but to dig deeper and explore his own unique interests and talents.

Paul’s comedy juggling and magic show engages audiences of all ages. Credits include Disney Cruise Lines, Off-Broadway, and performances from coast to coast. He also loves to share his passion for play at schools, libraries, and camps throughout the year.

Our SRP 2013 tween/teen workshops will encourage participants to explore Beneath the Surface and discover skill-based talents such as juggling and skill toys at their library. We currently have over 100 shows and workshops booked in 8 states, but there are still a few openings. Visit FlowCircus.com/Library for more information about our programs.

New Free Resource for Librarians

Posted by – March 1, 2013

Connecting Fiction and Non-Fiction Some of your library regulars may love reading stories while others use the non-fiction section to satisfy curiosity about dinosaurs, bugs, and sports (oh my!) There’s also that third group that might come for programs and gaming nights, but avoid reading. How can you develop programs to engage all three? How can you bridge fiction, non-fiction, and active learning? Why juggling, of course! Visit the Connections Page for resources needed to get tweens and teens excited about juggling through hands-on workshops that you can run regardless of your juggling skill level. A reading list with both fiction and non-fiction books will help them dig deeper and explore their new interest in juggling. These resources can also serve as a model for other programming ideas to help bridge this gap. This site has been developed with libraries in mind, but can easily be adapted for schools, camps, and afterschool programs. Flow Circus is available for hands-on training sessions to help your staff take full advantage of this resource. We are available to present sessions at conferences or regional meetings. These workshops are free if we are on tour in your area. For other free resources and DIY projects, visit FlowCircus.com/freeresources.

Read Across America 2013 Tour

Posted by – December 3, 2012

We love Dr. Seuss! One of Paul's favorite comments from a student came after a school show when the boy compared Paul to the Cat in the Hat (we can't imagine why!) Our favorite Dr. Seuss book is If I Ran the Circus and Paul has been known to incorporate the book into his storytelling. We thought it fitting to plan a tour in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday which has been designated by the National Education Association as Read Across America. We will be traveling throughout the Northeast (MA, CT, NY, &NJ) the week of February 25 and the DC area the week of March 4th. We have already booked several shows, but still have openings available to help your community celebrate Dr. Seuss! If you are interested in booking Paul's Read Yourself Silly performance or any of our other programs for your school or library during this tour, visit FlowCircus.com for more information. For activity ideas and other resources from the NEA, visit their Read Across America page.