Lesson Plans

Circus Without Borders Curriculum Guide 2: How can our dreams define our goals, our fears, and our possibilities?



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  lm 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.

Activity 1

Settings of Circus without Borders: Where are Guinea, West Africa and Igloolik, Canada?

  • Complete a quick review of links about each country featured in the documentary. Use a T-Chart to take notes on location, language, cultural history of population. (This can be completed as a previewing homework assignment to save time for class discussion about what they’ve learned.)

Activity 2

  • Watch the first section of Circus Without Borders (0:00 – 12:30) that introduces Yamoussa and Gulliaume and the settings of each group (Kalabante in Guinea, West Africa and Artcirq in Igloolik, Canada). Take notes on their observation of images, sounds and narrations.

Guiding questions:

  • How did the two groups connect?
  • What images and sound are used to introduce you to the setting?
  • Whose voices do we hear throughout this part of the film? What do their voices add to telling of this story?

Activity 3

  • Make a list of 4 words or phrases that relate to the major ideas or themes presented in the first section of the film. Write a sentence that explains how these words/phrases (does not have to be from the film) relate to your ideas about the film.
  • Discuss how the Yamoussa, Guilliaume, and other characters’ comments respond to the following essential question: How can our dreams define our goals, our fears, and our possibilities?
  • Wrap up: Write a brief paragraph that summaries your ideas about the purpose of the film. What other questions emerged for you? Use explicit details from your notes.

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

Educator Notes: 

Second 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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