Cirque Mechanics


A performer with Cirque Mechanics demonstrates sword swallowing

during a visit to Keene High School last month.

Last month, science and math students at Keene High School swapped protractors and beakers for a new set of classroom tools — swords and German wheels.

These are key elements in each show mounted by Cirque Mechanics, a performance act that combines traditional circus arts with complex mechanical engineering.

Many of the school’s students attended a student matinee performance of Cirque Mechanics’ latest show at The Colonial Theatre in December, but a smaller group — six or seven classes — got a glimpse behind the scenes when the performers visited Keene High later that afternoon.

This private show was made possible through the Keene Academy Fund, a grant fund that finances select school projects at Keene High. Each year, the school puts on a speaker series through the fund, allowing teachers to apply for money to mount events, said Kelly Budd, director of curriculum and assessment at the high school.

“The speaker series is all about bringing presenters and presentations to Keene High School or bringing students outside somewhere to participate in activities that are directly connected to their curriculum and their classes,” Budd said.

For example, during this school year the funding has brought a guest speaker to teach Keene High’s Chinese classes about basic martial arts and financed a field trip to the TEDxKeene conference, Budd said.

Each year the school also puts on one school-wide event through the series, typically a motivational speaker, according to Budd. This year’s speaker was Randy Pierce, a blind mountain climber who set — and achieved — a goal to hike all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers.

And with this visit from Cirque Mechanics, students had the opportunity learn about practical applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, such as through learning about the precise weight distribution needed to operate a German wheel, Budd said. But more than that, they were given the chance to look at STEM through a different lens: the performing arts.

For it “to be a performance art, yes, you need the engineering — but you have to think about, how am I now going to perform with this object?” Budd said.

This is the first time Keene High School has attended a Cirque Mechanics performance and hosted the group at the school, Budd said.

“Oftentimes, there are a lot of great performances that are out there that connect to the humanities, and the shows that really connect to STEM — science and technology and math — they all seem to be more for younger grades,” Budd said. “And this was really nice, because this was something that the high school could partake (in).”

Three children are being recognized by Ingalls Memorial Library in Rindge for reaching their goal of reading 1,000 books before kindergarten. The library participates in the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, a national initiative that promotes early literacy and family engagement.

Carson Desmarais, Elaina Desmarais and Briella Letourneau were honored at a recent party at the library, which included stories, games, crafts and prizes. Each child also selected their favorite book to be dedicated in their honor.

The program began at the library in January 2018.

Applications are now open for the Robert and Joyce Oberkotter Family Foundation Scholarship. The $3,500 renewable scholarship is open to graduating seniors at Fall Mountain Regional High School, along with several other high schools outside the Monadnock Region, who meet two or more of the following criteria: strong moral character; a record of service to school, family or the community; part-time work; participation in extracurricular activities or participation in sports.

Applications are available online at or at the high school guidance office, and must be submitted by Feb. 1.

The Westmoreland Middle School Student Council has been raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients program. The students’ goal was to collect $100 from each homeroom class in the school for a total of $900 raised, but more than doubled their goal by raising $2,191 for the organization.

What’s going on in your school? Let us know! Education reporter Meg McIntyre can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or Follow her on Twitter @MMcIntyreKS.