Circo Corsaro’s Pedagogy

The pedagogical foundation that sustains the interventions and projects of the Scuola di Circo Corsaro is enriched by a multiplicity of theoretical approaches and practical experiences that complement each other in an integral way.

The Scuola di Circo Corsaro has shared some of the best pedagogical tools that are part of its fieldwork, focusing its attention on some notions and tools of Pedagogy for the Third Millennium and on the concept of Participation.

During the last days of February and the first days of March, our organization has hosted the third of the learning meetings that have been part of the Opening the Circus Tent program.

The meeting had the following content:

  • Observation as an educational tool.
  • Mediation as an educational tool.
  • The Gridas Carnival in Scampia.
  • Participation.


We started the content by creating a group dynamic called “La terra sta morendo” with the aim of making the group reflect on the existence of prejudices in decision-making. This condition is repeated when interpreting reality and interacting with it.

Notes for observation: neuro science, attention and active reflection.

The science behind Observation:

Observation is directly connected to human beings’ capacity to know.

An experiment of Michael Gazzaniga affirms that the right hemisphere of the brain observes and the left one interprets, this one finds any explanation to safeguard the coherence. The left hemisphere gives explanations to unexpected behaviors. But how? By relating them, mainly, to memories and experiences of the past.

The problem with this functioning is that it generally does not give a new, updated and elaborate response to the new events that happen to us in our daily lives.

The educational model of the Pedagogy for the Third Millennium (PTM) is “educate to educate”, so the first object of study for all those who wish to activate an effective educational process is itself. If the knowledge acquired previously conditions our observations in an involuntary and even imperceptible way, conditioning also the representations we make of the events that happen to us; first of all we must focus our attention and efforts ourselves to know these conditions and oppose them.

The Interpreter:

The interpreter filters all the data we receive through our five senses. It is a mechanism present in each one of us, its operation is automatic and is based on the principle of economy.

The interpreter elaborates representations of the experiences we live and then stores them in our brain in a series of compartments, which are later reused to represent the same experience.

In an insufficiently disciplined mind, the interpreter re-proposes the same reading in similar situations. Thus, in these cases, the interpreter represents a very narrow filter that prevents us from representing those events that happen to us and preventing us from nourishing and learning from them.

What determines the size of our filter is the presence of experiences not understood, not adequately placed in our understanding capacity.

Attention: A necessary capacity for observation.

Attention is the key to our ability to observe.
It will be the focused attention, the one that demands a voluntary effort to remain fixed in the object to which it is going. It consists of maintaining attention to details without losing their relationship with the environment.

Focused attention can be trained to make the most of it in the educational relationship.

Keeping my attention on myself, in the educational relationship, I can observe myself and see if I am identifying with what is happening, if my response is a conditioned response and not properly elaborated or if my response is reactive to a negative emotion, and so on.

If I also focus on myself, on how I feel, I avoid involuntary and unwanted reactions and responses.

Data & Information: A need to distinguish.

What will make the difference in terms of the creation of conditions in our education will be the awareness of the interpretative process and therefore, the ability to distinguish between data and information.

Data are pure elements of reality that the educator places at the disposal of the minor as totally neutral elements, that is to say, that they are not attributed with any positive or negative sign or labeled with any prejudice.
The educator places them at the disposal of the learner so that he or she can interpret them with total associative freedom and can use them in an infinite number of interactions.

By information we mean data which the educator has imposed, mechanically and unintentionally, a particular form – or which he or she has reported on the basis of an experience he or she has achieved or believes he or she has achieved. These are data to which a very precise sign has been applied, whether positive or negative, so they are loaded with a connotation of value derived from prejudice.

Educational mediation according to the Pedagogy for the Third Millennium

Mediation is a concept that is based on important learning theories of great authors such as Vigostkij, Wood, Bruner and Bross, Freinet and Feuerstein. Vigostkij stands out among them all, as he develops in his studies a concept that will be key for us to understand and approach the concept of mediation that PTM understands.

The concept of close development zone, introduced by Lev Vygotski since 1931, is the distance between the level of effective development of the pupil (what he is capable of doing on his own) and the level of potential development (what he would be capable of doing with the help of an adult or a more capable companion).

Zone of proximal development by Lev Vygotsky

We can then affirm that the centre of learning lies in the relationship that the learner (suppose a minor) has with the adult and the help he receives from her to empower and make learning possible.

We extract from here, to construct the concept of PTM mediation, that the proximity of an adult makes evident and manifest the potential capacities of the minor that would otherwise be hidden. The educational relationship is characterised by a transmission of knowledge that must necessarily become know-how.

Mediation is the capacity to create an empty space, neutral and free of prejudices and pre-concepts, which makes it possible to generate a true educational relationship.

For this to happen, two clear positions must exist: a Major and a Minor who interact in a common space, a space in which the educational encounter is truly possible.

The greater the capacity of the tutor to contain it, the more possibilities there will be to reorganize the data that already exist and, therefore, the continuous redefinition of the ‘content’ of the relationship.

The Step of Mediation

What is the right distance for the prodigy to be fulfilled?
The word mediation could lead us to think that the meeting point between educator and student is in the middle of the distance that separates them. From our point of view, a more correct understanding of the word is that the educator is the means that allows the student to travel the distance that separates him from the ability to acquire.

If the distance that separates the major from the minor is 100 steps and the minor only reaches 10, the major will perform 89 steps, so that the minor feels the desire to reach him and finds the stimulus to take that step of more that still separates them.

This step is not a simple effort for the minor, that is to say, the use of the capacities already acquired, but a super effort because it demands the development of new capacities, a new understanding, a new vision with respect to the capacities already acquired. As all educators know, without super-efforts there is no progress. The ability of the mediator is to understand precisely the capacity of the child and to determine what Vygotskij would call the “Proximal Development Zone”.

This process allows the tutor to position himself properly and act in such a way that the child develops the good result to which he can effectively aspire in the present moment.

In order for the tutor and the minor to be placed in the right position, theIt is important that the tutor knows how to observe himself and the child, the environment, the context and the circumstances that change at each moment in relation to the proposed stimuli.

The role of the mediator is to help the minor to face the obstacle that is still too great for him or her. It is not a question of eliminating the obstacles, but of making sure that, through the mediated confrontation with them, the minor can take the next step in his or her path, that step that favours his or her possible current progress.

The quality of education

The quality of the educational relationship will be in the care of four main factors:

  1. The environment: the first factor which influences the pedagogical action is the preparation of the environment: to create suitable conditions through which the natural desire of the child for experimentation can be manifested in useful experiences. The preparation of the environment is an instrument for proposing and promoting an experience. In fact, the environment determines behavior; some behaviors will be presented or not depending on how the environment is prepared. The environment must be stimulating and emotionally welcoming. Positive emotions are intensified and resistance to negative emotions is educated.
  2. The relationship: the second factor of the pedagogical action is the organization of the possible relationship. It is established with the succession of the stimulations that are intended to be produced within that time. The stimulations must be correctly designed (through mediation) so that they can be translated into new capacities, into know-how.
  3. The Cadence. Cadence is produced by the emphasis that the educator will necessarily have to place on some educational elements to make a difference and point out to the student the fundamental steps of the process that is underway.
  4. Intensity. The fourth phase of the pedagogical action is the re-elaboration of the experience: remembering what has been lived creates intensity. At the end of each activity, the tutor summarizes it for himself and for the minor, to relive the whole event and create a new stratification of knowledge obtained by the awareness that the event has only been possible through the participation of the student who has been its architect. When the student feels that the experience is completely his own in the proposed activity, he can then start again from a higher level of difficulty. By remembering the experiences that have generated a change in the student, it will be possible to observe what has happened only when the student has perceived the experience as totally his own.

The Social Circus Show: A participation tool.

The social circus show is one of the most special and important moments of our social project with the corsaro circus school. We often hear in social circus projects that the important thing is the process, that what counts is the learning process and that the show is not so important as such; since the purpose of our projects is not to create artists but to make the process a learning for life.

We totally agree with this, but we do not underestimate the tremendous educational and transforming potential that the show can have. The spectacle can and must be that element that intensifies experience (as mediation says). The spectacle makes possible the affirmation of oneself. An aspect that creates a before and an after, determining the existence of an individual or group in relation to its community.

To understand our vision it is important to approach the concept of PARTICIPATION.

But what do we mean by participation?

Participation is the process of sharing decisions that affect one’s own life and the life of the community where one lives. It is the means by which a democracy is built and is a fundamental criterion by which democracies are to be judged. Participation is the fundamental right of citizenship (Hart, 1992, p.5).

Participation is a process that guarantees the possibility of expressing a point of view, of influencing decision making and achieving change.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) embodies children’s right to participation in the following articles:

  • Article 12: Right to be listened to and taken seriously.
  • Article 13: Freedom of expression.
  • Article 14: Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  • Article 15: Right to freedom of association.
  • Article 17: Right to be informed.

Our circus schools must be spaces that offer opportunities for all children, no matter where they come from or where they go, to know, live and enjoy a democratic context that gives rise to the learning of individual and collective rights and responsibilities, to understand themselves as critical and thinking citizens, to develop and strengthen all their capacities.

How used are we to listening to the child in a neutral way and welcoming his point of view?

Rogert Hart’s participation ladder is a very useful tool for understanding the various levels of participation that exist and what we can facilitate whenever we want to facilitate participation processes in our schools.

It can serve to determine the extent to which real participation processes are being promoted, or whether, at times, what is generated as external agents of development is only symbolic participation.