By Chris Mays, Brattleboro Reformer
WILMINGTON — Students at Twin Valley Elementary School have been clowning around a lot this week.
But it’s all in preparation for a big show they will put on at the school Friday at 6 p.m.
“We bang it out real fast,” said Troy Wunderle, of Wunderle’s Big Top Adventures.
During a week-long residency, he worked with students from the school’s pre-K through grade 5 classes, but only K-5 will perform in the show.
Fifth graders were sharpening their balance skills and hand-to-eye coordination Wednesday morning in preparation. They had two classes to get their acts together.
Wunderle said students selected their “favorite” equipment and needed to get “qualified” in terms of ability before staging the show. They were on stilts, “rolling globes” or medicine balls, pedalos and “rolla bolla” balance boards. Then, they planned how their performances would fit into a story.
Rosie Robert, a fifth-grader, bounced up and down on a pogo stick.
“I’ve been doing this since I was little,” she said.
Fifth-grader Erin Florence was just beginning to incorporate scarves into her pedalo routine. At the time, she was just waving them. But at some point, she might start juggling them, an idea Wunderle suggested to students.
Riding the pedalo gave Florence a nervous feeling, she said. “Are you going to fall?”
Fifth-grader Shayne Rice walked in a circle on a “rolling globe” and said it was not really scary. He called the circus program “fun.”
Meg Staloff, a parent, wrote the grant application to bring it to the school.
“I saw the show at Dover when they did a residency last year and wanted to make it happen for our school, too,” she said. “Troy Wunderle is a master educator and brings such joy to the whole school community. It was a pleasure to make it happen.”
The Vermont Arts Council provided a $1,250 Artist in Schools grant and the Rotary Club of the Deerfield Valley gave the school $1,000. Staloff said parents will sell popcorn and baked goods by donation at the show, and Wunderle donates 15 percent of any sales of circus toys to the school.
“So we hope to raise some more funds that way so the school will not have to use very much of their own special project funds,” said Staloff, referring to money raised in an annual fall sale. “The school staff are making the week happen and I helped coordinate volunteers to work the concession table and wrangle kids during the show. It has been a great community effort. So far, I have rave reviews from parents and kids.”
Twin Valley Elementary School physical education teacher Chris Walling said the students have been “so into it.”
“They can’t get enough of it,” he said, calling the students “excited” and “enthusiastic” about the program.
While Walling offers students a circus unit, he said Wunderle takes it to another level and teaches him new approaches.
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Walling said.
And of himself, Walling said, “After 26 years in this business, you’re never too old to learn things.”