Lesson Plans

Circus Without Borders Curriculum Guide 4: Extended activities and resources

A Deal Middle School sixth grader balances on the shoulders of a Circus Kalabanté acrobat. Image by Dermot Tatlow. United States, 2018.

A Deal Middle School sixth grader balances on the shoulders of a Circus Kalabanté acrobat. Image by Dermot Tatlow. United States, 2018. 

PART 1 * PART 2 * PART 3 * PART 4


Circus Without Borders is an enlightening tale of two circus troupes from opposite ends of the globe who converge to realize a common dream. Using circus arts as a means of self-expression and cultural exchange, the two circuses —Artcirq in the Canadian Arctic and Kalabante in West Africa—give youth in two of the world’s most challenged communities the tools to travel beyond their borders and succeed. The film is a beautiful performance piece; a portal into two remote cultures; and an inspiring story of joy and heartbreak with universal relevance.

The  film culminates with a performance in Ottawa that blends Artcirq’s traditions and repertoire with the magic of Yamoussa’s acrobatics. The performers discover that, while they all face enormous and painful challenges, if they work hard, believe in themselves and embrace their own history and culture, “the rest will come.”

Viewing the Film:

The documentary is now available to stream worldwide on iTunesAmazonGoogle PlayVimeoYoutube Video on Demand and jman.tv.

Further study of documentary medium and extended activity:

1. Work in groups of 3–5 to review a type of documentary mode and review an example. Discuss elements in group, and then in jigsaw groups to have cross discussions about the types of documentaries


Poetic: Water

Expository: Choose excerpt from History Channel Documentaries: The War in Vietnam

Observational: Sanatorium

Participatory: Class Participation, A Documentary

Reflexive: The Road

Performative: Supersize Me

Go to one the following sites to review the definition of each type of documentary.

Collaborative Documentary

Deborah Tudor, DePaul University

In home groups, discuss what elements were most dominant in Circus Without Borders.

Optional Extended Activity

Work in small groups to create a 1–2 minute documentary about dreams for yourselves or the world. This can be a group project or individual projects within one group. Use this or a similar rubric to discuss guidelines for self-evaluation.

Steps include:

  • Review different technology for making a short documentary (e.g. iMovie). Decide on technology and begin. This is a two-week independent project that will be balanced between homework for production and classwork for discussion and review.
  • Identify documentary topic/theme and mode.
  • Create a storyboard outline of proposed interviews, images, texts, narration, music, etc.

This can be drawn or completed on a PowerPoint document.

  • Begin finalizing project
  • Consider having a short film festival option to share student work with parents or other members of the community. Class website and local cable television may also be options for sharing student work.

Possible Resources

How to Make a Documentary Film
Beginners Guide to iMovie

Related Texts

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
The Alchemists by Paulo Coelho
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

This curriculum guide shared with the permission of the Boston Globe Foundation.

Educator Notes: 

Fourth set of exercises for students who will be watching "Circus Without Borders." Created by Jane Skelton for the Boston Globe Foundation.

Related Common Core State Standards

ELA Informational Text
Grade 8
Grade 9–10
RI. 9-10.2.RI.9-10.4.RI.9-10.6.
Grade 11–12
Grade 9–10
Grade 11–12

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